What’s Happening In… LGBTQ Columbus, Ohio

by Our Editors
Columbus, Ohio Skyline

As one of the largest festivals in the region, Columbus Pride attracts more than 700,000 people every June.

Ivan Quintanilla

Since 2010, Fashion Week Columbus (www.fashionweekcolumbus.org) has been showcasing emerging and established designers every year. “I’ve shown all over the world but, for me, there is no place more exciting for fashion right now than Columbus,” said Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros (www.ferreyroslife. com), a Peruvian fashion designer who has been based in Columbus for five years. His collection ranges from elaborate pageant gowns to high-end ready-to-wear.

The modern-day gentleman needs to look no further than Samson (722 N. High St. Tel: 614-504-8038. www.samsonmensemporium.com) in the Short North neighborhood. In this men’s emporium you’ll feel like “you’re visiting an old friend and shopping in his well-curated living room,” said owner Travis Samson. Carrying clothing, grooming products, and barware, Samson is a little gem of a shop serving up a classically casual style for men.

Driven by a mission to dress everyone, Olly Awake (www.ollyawake.com) is one of Columbus’ newest fashion brands and one whose focus is on creating gender equal clothing, for all body types.

ART Sculpture at Columbus School of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio

ART Sculpture at Columbus School of Art and Design
Photo: Aceshot1

The boom in tourism has also sprouted new hotels and restaurants throughout Columbus. The 116-room Moxy Short North (808 N. High St. Tel: 614-412-7664. www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/cmhoxmoxy- columbus-short-north) is the newest kid on the block, conveniently located a hop, skip and a stumble from several gay bars. Described as a “boutique hotel with the social heart of a hostel” this Marriott property is geared toward millennial travelers. The rooms, though small, utilize every nook and cranny and shift the focus to the Moxy’s expansive shared spaces. The lobby serves as café, bar, and socializing lounge, with pool table, arcade, and board games for all to share. Later this year, the restaurant Townhall takes over the hotel’s street level space and the Moxy will unveil a new rooftop bar.

Also in the Short North, the Graduate Hotel (750 N. High St. Tel: 614-484-1900. www.graduatehotels.com/columbus) opened in July 2019. The independent hotel chain focuses on college towns and, for its Columbus edition, found inspiration in The Ohio State University. The Graduate uses Ohio State memorabilia and honors prominent alums in each of the rooms. They’ve gone as far as designing the urinals in the men’s lobby bathroom in the colors of the Buckeyes chief rival, University of Michigan.

The Canopy by Hilton (77 E. Nationwide Blvd. Tel: 614-223-1400. www.hilton.com) brought yet another choice across from the Greater Columbus Convention Center in 2019. The 167-room hotel (including four suites) comes equipped with a “transfer lounge” offering lockers and private showers for guests who arrive early. Goodale Station (goodalestation.com), the hotel’s rooftop restaurant serves New American Cuisine with indoor/outdoor dining options and sweeping views. The inventive cocktail list includes a vodka-based drink named the Fancy Nancy, served with a baby’s breath bouquet. The name alone is a reason to order.

For a dining experience that feels like you’ve been invited into someone’s home, visit the newly opened Ambrose and Eve (716 S. High St. Tel: 614-725-2080. www.ambroseandevecolumbus.com), coowned by Chefs Matt Heaggans and Catie Randazzo, a graduate of the Columbus Culinary Institute. The restaurant is named after Randazzo’s grandparents and the décor feels as homey as their parlor. Following gramp’s advice of kindness, the restaurant will donate to charity for every order sold of their signature Fried Chicken Supper.

To continue your charitable chewing, head to Taco Tuesday at The Kitchen (231 E. Livingston Ave. Tel: 614-225-8940. www.thekitchencolumbus.com), a pop-up dining event that partners with local organizations every week. For a spirited dining experience, saunter to Service Bar (1230 Courtland Ave. Tel: 614-947-1231. www.servicebarcolumbus.com), a bustling restaurant connected to Middle West Spirits (www.middlewestspirits.com). Cocktail connoisseurs can schedule a distillery tour, dine at the restaurant and leave with a bottle of their award-winning OYO vodka or MWS whiskey from the adjacent Bottle Shop. For a nightcap with a view, ascend to Lincoln Social (711 N. High St. Tel: 614-300-9494. www.lincolnsocialrooftop.com), arguably the city’s most popular rooftop bar, since opening in Short North in March 2019.

In today’s environment where LGBTQ-specific bars are closing or blending with mainstream establishments, what I found most novel about Columbus nightlife is the perseverance of queer spaces. The city boasts more than 10 LGBTQ bars.

The Guild House in Columbus, Ohio

The Guild House
Photo: Emma Parker

Also, the Columbus drag scene has achieved a new level of international recognition with RuPaul christening local queen Nina West as “the PRIDE of Season 11” and then crowning her as Miss Congeniality. Columbus repaid the favor by renaming a prominent passageway in the gayborhood, “The Nina West Way.”

Located next to Nina’s “Way,” Union Café (782 N. High St. Tel: 614-421-2233. www.facebook.com/UnionCafe/), has been anchoring the Short North neighborhood for over 20 gay years. Across the street, Axis (775 N. High St. Tel: 614-291-4008. www.axisonhigh.com) is Columbus’ largest LGBTQ nightclub, hosting dance parties, male reviews, and performances by some of the city’s most loved drag entertainers, including Nina and her drag mother Virginia West. Ladies who love ladies (and pizza) should head to Slammers (202 E. Long St. Tel: 614-221-8880. www.slammerspizza.com), a lesbian bar with a pizza kitchen, patio, and live entertainment. Opened in 2017, Boscoe’s (1224 S. Hight St. Tel: 614-826-3758. www.boscoesbar.com) is one of the city’s newest neighborhood bars featuring go-go boys and drag shows.

How lucky are your charms? Find out with the men at Cavan Irish Pub (1409 S. High St. Tel: 614-725-5502. www.cavanirishpub.com), a gay pub in the German Village neighborhood featuring male strippers on weekends. And for men in the mood for a sweatier, edgier night out, the sexy choice is AWOL (49 Parsons Ave. Tel: 614-621-8779. www.awolbar.com). Though open throughout the week, Saturday night brings different themes to the dancefloor, including leather, fetish, and the monthly body-positive UnderBear Party, with a special area encouraging playful interactions.

You’ll feel welcome in Columbus any time. However, should you want your trip to coincide with an extra dose of queer, visit October 3 for the newly scheduled Columbus Pride Parade (www.columbuspride.org); October 23-24 for Highball Halloween (www.highballcolumbus.org), a massive costumed street party and fashion show; or August 30- September 4, 2021, when the city hosts more than 250 teams for the North American Gay Softball World Series (www.2021gsws.com).

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