Contrary to what happens to when you leave the bar—get it?—The Closet instead gets its name because it’s actually about the size of a closet—ok, maybe a large Gold Coast walk-in closet, but size is no issue when it comes to this bar. Although it may be one of the tiniest bars you’ve ever seen, once you get in there and have a few drinks you won’t even notice how cozy things can become with perfect strangers.
Located on Broadway, just north of Melrose, The Closet opened its doors in Boystown in 1978 by two lesbians, Judi & Rose, who wanted to offer a place where women could be themselves. Even though The Closet is often referred to as a “lesbian bar,” it’s also a popular hangout for gay men. There’s not much to The Closet, besides a full-size bar decorated with Christmas lights no matter the season, there’s also a few high-backed, black vinyl barstools along the wall and an open space for dancing or karaoke, depending on the night. Some of the walls are covered with pictures reminiscent of the early days at the bar. Recently, the bar held a “cutest pet contest” and one of the bar’s walls was covered with black & white pictures of the four-legged friends of patrons. There may be a lack of things to do in the bar but there is never a lack of anything to look at…
Thursday night karaoke, held from 9:30pm-1:30am, often draws large crowds waiting for their turn at the mic. With very little space for voices to carry, it can seem a little loud when the somewhat, shall we say, “less-than-talented” singers are on stage. Frequently, the bar will have themed karaoke nights and performers play along with songs from a selected genre. Bingo also makes an occasional appearance on Thursday nights depending on the season. Tuesday nights beginning at 7pm is musical open mic night and anything goes. Men, women, young and old alike take turns expressing themselves in whatever musical way they can. I once was fortunate enough to hear a slightly intoxicated man sing “Rubber Ducky.” [Editor’s note: the karaoke occasionally draws straight women, but the only straight man I know to have stepped foot in The Closet was an exceedingly hung-over Australian that I once knew who abruptly left a meal at nearby Melrose Restaurant on New Year’s Day to administer some emergency hair-of-the-dog remedy via Miller Lite, while wondering why a bar full of women were watching racing on the TV.]
The Closet is a big hangout for softball players in the summer months, when the bar can get pretty busy, pretty wild and generally becomes a pick-up joint for lesbians. You can tell it’s that time of year when you walk in the bar and as if on cue, every woman at the bar turns to check you out and see if you’re worth getting up from the bar for. On a side note, like many Boystown bars, I would advise not using the unisex bathroom on busy nights. Couples have been known to use it for extra-curricular activities and leave certain things behind… if you know what I mean. And if you’re as lucky as I often am, you will be the next one in line after a couple has finished their business. I must also add that this doesn’t tend to happen until the wee hours of the morning when the bar is sometimes packed so full you may wet your pants by the time you push your way to the restrooms. The Closet has a late-night license, so the restroom shenanigans run until 4am (5am Saturday).
“We are the place where the Sunday softball girls mingle with the Bloody Mary boys while taking in ‘the best view on Broadway’ out the big windows. We are a place where within minutes a dance and sing-along develops like a wave through the bar. ‘You never know what’s going to happen’ is a phrase that resounds in The Closet.”– The Closet website
The Closet occasionally hosts big parties. Coming up on December 17th, they will host the 31st annual Pre-New Year’s Eve Bash, one of the bar’s busiest party nights in part because each year carries a new theme. This, combined with karaoke, bingo, darts, video bowling, and other assorted contests and lesbian open season after softball games, is why a bar as tiny as The Closet has been going strong for over 30 years. If you like The Closet, you may also like Spyners, a somewhat older lesbian karaoke crowd in Lincoln Square, and T’s Bar & Restaurant in Andersonville. For more information, check out The Closet Website.
The Closet back in the good ol’ days