Queer Guide 2024

The Mercury's 2024 Queer Guide: Endless Queer Summer

Rainbow signs in windows are legion, and Portland's queer summer is endless.

All Pride All the Time

There’s something happening every weekend, as we count down to Portland Pride!

Kathleen Hanna Is Making a Documentary About Darcelle XV

Fun fact: The riot grrrl punk singer is Walter Cole's second cousin.

Q Marks the Spot

For two decades, the Q Center has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community—and they have even bigger dreams for the future.

Find Queer Comedy Tonight!

Our roundup of the best queer (and queer adjacent) comedy shows in Portland.

We Are in Cinema's Golden Age of the Lesbian Dirtbag

Celebrate Pride with lesbian cinema! Without crying, for once!

EverOut's 2024 Pride Event Calendar

Don't miss a minute of fun during this year's Queer Summer!


You don't have to be queer to figure out these puzzles... but it helps!

This Portland Gay Bar Is Opening a Family-Friendly LGBTQIA+ Lounge

Since spring, we've wondered about "Scandals East." Here's the plan.


Target Is Canonically Gay! Did the Founding Fathers Kiss Dudes?

A Portland Drag Clown in Residence at the Venice Biennale

Artist Jeffery Gibson invited Carla Rossi to climb his installation on the US pavilion.

Queer Bars in Portland, a History

Silverado was once Flossie's; Lowensdale Park was once a place to cruise—take a brief dive into a history of our city's queer spaces.

Mona Chrome Is—Ironically Enough—a "Walking Crayon Box"

Gary Barnes sees drag as a way to combine their passions for painting, costume design, and dance—all at once!


Northeast Portland neighborhood wine bar Bonne Chance built a queer clientele on allyship and Malört.

Queer Guide Comic: COVID-Safer Pride Guide

Protect your ability to party—and protest—this Pride!

Queer Eye for the Pedalpalooza Ride

Portland leads the way in welcoming riders of all genders and sexualities.

The Long Road to Justice

As the American legal landscape for LGBTQ+ residents 
grows hostile, Oregon works to enshrine rights for all.

Where to Find a Queer-Owned Bar or Restaurant Near You

Fourteen spots to try during Portland Pride Summer—and beyond!

The Future of HIV Treatment Is Injectable

Promising prugs could expand treatment–if we get out of our own way.

[Find the Mercury's Queer Guide in print—available in more than 500 spots citywide!—eds.]

The Silverado is obviously and stridently a gay bar. Rainbow tassels line the kitchen, attractive men in snug underwear sling drinks, and posters of shirtless guys adorn the walls. Also, after nine at night male strippers perform in the Silverado’s basement.

The Silverado was established over four decades ago and today is one of Portland’s longest-standing gay bars. It’s now in its third or fourth location, depending on how you count.

 “It started as Flossie’s, which was up on Burnside where the Fred Meyer is now,” says Trevor Wion, the Silverado’s bar manager of nearly 25 years. He says that Flossie’s was “the same as what we are now, which is a very queer bar, but much quieter. I don’t think they started having dancers until ’87.”

According to Wion, sometime in the early ’90s the owner of Flossie’s surprised everyone by announcing that the bar was suddenly moving to what is now Harvey Milk Street. 

“Everyone picked something up. There was a procession of bar stools, records, and bottles of liquor. Everyone just carried everything, and that’s when they opened up down at Stark Street.”

“They had a party every night. It was the place to be,” says Kevin Cook, AKA Poison Waters. Cook hosted a regular afternoon and evening event at the Silverado for several years, called The Church of the Poisoned Mind. Since opening, the Silverado has moved two additional times. In 2008 it moved from Harvey Milk to SW 3rd Avenue, and in 2018 it relocated to its current Old Town location on NW Couch.

Cook noted that every iteration of the Silverado had its own personality. 

“The first one was old-school raw and gritty,” he says. “The next location was cool... It was two spaces with a little courtyard pass-through.” 

That “pass-through” divided the club into two distinct sections: One that was more of a conventional bar, and another section with dancers. That division persists at the Silverado’s current location, with a bar upstairs and dancers in the basement.

When asked if there are any particular differences between running a male strip club versus a more conventional strip club, Wion says no. He has pretty much all the same business concerns as other venues. Then he pauses and adds, “there is a lot of male energy.”

The Silverado is a legacy establishment, and part of a long history of queer spaces in Portland. It’s impossible to identify which establishments were queer in the city’s early days, but they were almost certainly not as obvious about it as the Silverado. 


The earliest queer spaces in Portland didn’t make queerness part of their identity or brand. They were simply places where queer people happened to gather. In the early 20th century “there were a couple of restaurants and office spaces,” says Cayla McGrail, secretary of the Oregon Queer History Collective. “How do we define a queer space? It can be kind of murky as to what ‘counts,’ especially in times when being out in public can result in harm.” 

McGrail notes that such places included Lownsdale Square, a popular meeting place for gay men for much of the 20th century. “Public parks aren’t necessarily advertising themselves as a big gay spot,” says McGrail, “but you could go there and find other people.”

She also notes that private homes, clubs, and spaces out of the public eye were gathering places long before gay bars and dance clubs opened their doors, adding that information on those places isn’t easy to track down. 

“It can be hard to find a lot of [information about] the more private venues, but we know that private venues are important as gathering spaces,” says McGrail. “We don’t know about all of the closed doors that have queer history hidden behind them.”

McGrail cites the Music Hall on SW 10th and Stark as an early example of a venue with some public-facing queerness. 

Drag artists at the Music Hall in 1950. The Oregon Journal

“It was a venue that hosted night shows, and part of their bookings were drag,” says McGrail. “It wasn’t advertised as a queer space. People knew from the entertainment what was going on.”

In the late 1940s, the Music Hall attracted the attention of a reformist mayor and chief of police who attempted to crack down on queer people. “There are police reports noting that there were lesbians from San Francisco hanging out there,” says McGrail. 

Despite the best efforts of moralizing city leaders, gay bars and other explicitly queer spaces started appearing in the middle decades of the 20th century. 

“During the ’60s and ’70s, the gay liberation movement helped spur a lot of what ‘counts’ as a modern gay bar,” says McGrail. “There’s the Other Inn which opened in 1964, and was a leather bar. Leather isn’t always queer, but there’s a lot of significance to Portland’s first leather bar opening in the ’60s…. There’s a point in the ’70s where a bar called Roman’s Riptide first advertised itself as a gay bar. It’s been demolished, but it was over on Harvey Milk. I think it’s a parking lot now.”

After those initial gay bars opened in Portland, openly queer spaces blossomed in the city. But McGrail notes that these spaces included much more than just bars. Restaurants like Old Wives’ Tales and the Mountain Moving Cafe were prominent queer spaces not centered on alcohol. She also mentions organizations like a softball league—which played on Erv Lind Field in Northeast Portland’s Normandale Park—which was not explicitly queer, but included many queer participants.

The Silverado and queer bars like it are still very much around, but Wion has noticed something of a shift in the last few years. Spaces that are explicitly queer are no longer the only options for people who want to be out in public.

“I think it might be lost on younger generations going out to queer establishments that it’s more socially acceptable now to take your partner out to a straight club, and you’re not going to get beat up,” he says. “Which is great! I love that. I think it’s beautiful that places are opening up. What I’m noticing is that the younger generation feel no ties about going to gay establishments. They have so many places they can go, they don’t have to think about them.”

When asked if gay bars are on the decline, McGrail says: “I guess it goes back to what counts as a gay bar. These spaces are really important, and we’re losing them…. Nationally, I think you can say they’re on the decline, especially in today’s political climate.. But there are so many other kinds of places. Bars aren’t the only places to go to anymore. Bars have to keep reinventing to be attractive to a wide range of communities, and queer communities are constantly changing.”

“There is quite a bit of queer nightlife,” says Cook. “It’s just not in specifically queer spaces. A lot of restaurants or clubs will have a queer night or a gay night or a drag night, even though they’re not necessarily queer the whole week through.”

Cook doesn’t think that’s a bad thing. 

“As a Black gay man who dresses in drag, my wish is that I’m welcomed in a space,” he says. “We open up our space to you, you open up your space to us.” 

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Cayla McGrail's name, and the location of where a mostly queer softball league played. We regret the errors.—eds