I've seena lot of weird things happen at bars late at night, but watching six leather-clad men bound together with Saran Wrap try to catch gay porn with their teeth was a first for me.
Such was the scene I encountered at Woof's at the recent Beg For It party hosted by SPIT NYC. Woof's is the new kid on the King Street block (replacing the King Club) that touts itself as a gay-friendly sports bar. Owned by Dino Maniaci and Jason Hoke, the place has drawn quite a crowd in its first month open. So as a veteran New York clubgoer, I was curious to see what a Woof's weekend would look like, and frankly a little nervous. I'm always up for a party, but these days I tend to shy away from the partial nudity and dance-floor dry-humping that many clubs -- gay or straight -- tend to provoke.
Though flat-panel televisions line the industrial walls where plenty of basketball fans caught March madness, calling Woof's a sports bar is like calling Playboy a literary magazine. The giant photographs of nearly naked men are enough to prevent you, for example, from taking Grandpa along to catch a Brewers game. As my hairdresser Stan put it, "If gay could talk, it would have a megaphone, and it would be shouting. Loudly. That's how gay it is."
Yet Hoke and all of the employees I talked to are quick to assert that it's an inclusive place. I think that's fair. My friend Caitlyn and I, dressed to kill, were certainly doted upon at this see-and-be-seen spectacle. Ironically it was my new friend Danny, dressed in a T-shirt and baseball cap, and his partner of eight years who felt the most left out on Saturday night. "We thought it was going to be a gay version of Pooley's," he told me, referring to the east-side sports bar. "A place for regular guys to hang out. We don't like all the leather."
I could see the poor guy's point. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and that's exactly what Caitlyn and I did. With help from a wonderful invention called the vodka martini, we dove right into the leather, bondage, industrial-techno male homosexual scene that, as satin, manicured, indie-pop-loving female heterosexuals, wasn't our natural habitat. But we adapted quickly. Bartender wearing only a leather jockstrap on the bottom? Child's play. Man in a giant bear suit for some "plushie" fetish? Who cares? Host Paul Short asking us to dance on barrels? Why not? Everyone was as friendly as could be, and no one was trying to get us into bed. It was refreshing, although part of me missed the attention.
Now, I know that regardless of sexual orientation, this might sound a little overwhelming. Not to worry. I stopped into Woof's a couple times during the week and it was a far milder crowd, with people shooting pool or watching movies and sports on TV (except for a few who tuned into Top Chef on Bravo). The gay rugby team in town holds its meetings and recruitment inside, and Indie Queer plans to host smaller events there, too.
Plus, Hoke is the sweetest guy and is at Woof's nearly every day, trying to work out the kinks and taking suggestions from patrons. He even organized a Bear-Beer-Bash to take place every Sunday night with $2 Miller Lite and free pizza from the Glass Nickel. Cheap beer, free pizza. Does it get more gay and/or guy friendly than that?