Where to Eat, Drink and Dance in Queens for Pride Season
Throughout June, LGBTQ people all over the world take to the streets, bars and beaches to celebrate Pride month. The NYC Pride March in Manhattan may be the city’s most well-known celebration, but Queens’ own parade is nothing to sneeze at. Drawing more than 40,000 spectators, it is the second largest Pride event in the New York metro area.
Queens Pride was established during a wave of LGBTQ and Latino community organizing spurred by the 1990 murder of Julio Rivera. Rivera, a 29-year-old gay man who worked as a bartender, was beaten to death by three skinheads. This year, the 25th annual parade and festival will take place on Sunday, June 4th in Jackson Heights. Queens Pride co-chair Tina Arniotis said it’s important that the festival honors the neighborhood’s particular history and culture of resistance. The parade is not merely an offshoot of the Manhattan Pride weekend at the end of the month. “Each borough is unique,” Arniotis said. “The diversity of Queens is one of the reasons why we host this parade. This is a multicultural festival.”
Attendees to this year’s parade and festival will be treated to performances by headliner Lisa Lisa and a litany of community groups including the Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers. The parade’s grand marshals will be trans-Latina activist Bianey García De la O, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, and Sheltering Arms NY, an organization that provides education and health services to kids and families experiencing abuse, neglect and poverty.
The lineup of food vendors includes Greek fare from Athens Delight and a full Puerto Rican spread including roast pork, sweet plantains, and chicken and cheese empanadas from The Freakin Rican. The neighborhood’s gay bars—including Hombres Lounge, Club Evolution, and Friend’s Tavern—are longtime Queens Pride supporters and will all host afterparties for the parade. Bum Bum Bar, the preeminent lesbian bar of Jackson Heights, also celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Its June 4th Pride festivities will include go-go dancers, jello shots and a backyard barbecue with chicken and beef kebabs.
There’s plenty going on elsewhere in the borough, too. In addition to their standard lineup of comfort food and draft beers, Austin’s Ale House in Kew Gardens will serve rainbow cupcakes during the first and last weeks of June. For the second half of the month, Bayside’s Bourbon Street will offer a special Pride-themed cocktail menu at its rooftop bar. Notable drinks include “On the Rim” (vodka, peach schnapps and Blue Curaçao with a rainbow sugar rim) and “The Cherry 4-Play” (cherry vodka, Hornitos Tequila, Bacardi Rum, Beefeater Gin, triple sec, sour mix, grenadine and a splash of Sprite topped with lemon and cherries).
The Footlight in Ridgewood has three consecutive nights of Pride events planned for the last week of June. On Sunday the 25th, they will host a showcase of local queer noise performers called "Mask Off!" The Footlight’s weekly Monday night drunk writing workshop with author Kendra L. Saunders will feature prompts celebrating LGBTQ culture as well as themed drink specials. They’ll round out their Pride festivities on Tuesday night with the Rainbow Road Comedy Show, hosted by Calvin S. Cato. There will be free candy.
The origins of Queens Pride are somber, but the celebrations that have arisen in response to hatred and violence are a testament to the vibrancy of the borough’s LGBTQ communities. Defiant queer joy comes in many flavors, so whether you prefer backyard barbecues, high octane cocktails, or dancing in the streets with empanadas, Queens has got you covered—long after the confetti has been swept from the sidewalk.