Queer F rezoo Overview
By Mark Barrett, M.D.*
Fresno‟s Gay and Lesbian Community continues to be very closeted and cliquish (you should have seen
some people turn and run when the news cameras showed up at this year‟s Pride celebration). However,
over the past few years the city has made some great strides. Most everything non-bar oriented is located
in the Tower where most of the restaurants are queer-friendly.
First a word of wisdom to you young, fresh-faced medical students from someone who has traveled this
road for a long time (a very long time): make sure you get a good disco nap in before you go out at night
since you‟ll want to look as good and perky as possible. After all, the demands of medical school can drag
you down and make you look old before your time.
There are three bars on the north end of the Tower District on North Maroa that are all within walking
distance from each other. Going from south to north you can move from the North Tower Circle to Bam
Bam’s Café and then to the Express. In order to get to the other bars on foot you have to leave the North
Tower Circle and cross the train tracks (eek!). I have this fantasy of saving a big old Drag Queen who
has her pump stuck in the tracks: I rush in and save her before she has to gnaw her own leg off before the
train comes. (After all, I became a doctor because I wanna help people).
North Tower Circle (NTC)
2777 North Maroa 229-4188
The North Tower Circle is a fairly large club with a neighborhood feel that is open for dancing nightly.
They usually only get big crowds for special events which always seem to be held at NTC. Their biggest
night used to Thursday‟s Latino Night but the 708 Club is stealing the crowd. Friendly bartenders,
although one can be rather toothy. There‟s a nice patio but it‟s right next to the train tracks (remember
how dangerous they are and please respond to all drag queen moans, cries, or yelps even if it is a full
moon – it‟s your duty as a medical professional). The parking lot has a guard and video surveillance. I
saw a car back into another car in that lot and the guard didn‟t flinch – he might actually be a blow-up
guard, but I feel safe. Wednesday night they play Queer as Folk (STOP!) and Thursday they play Will &
Bam Bam’s Café
2915 North Maroa 224-4844
Between NTC and the Express is Bam Bam‟s. This is the newest of the bars and often rumored to be
going out of business secondary to the owner‟s poor business practices and scrapes with the law. Bam
Bam‟s usually has a decent crowd but often it is very young as this is an 18-and-over club. Ya kinda get
the feeling that you‟re around a bunch of tweakers and skeezers sans skateboards. The dance floor is
small and there always seems to be construction going on – or rather, construction that has been halted for
some reason. Tuesdays are 2-for-1 drinkies and Sunday night they play Queer as Folk (STOP!). They
also serve food (good fries).
*** DR. BARRETT WAS IN THE MODEL FRESNO PROGRAM IN 1998-99 AND GRADUATED FROM THE UCSF
FRESNO PEDIATRICS RESIDENCY. HE IS ON THE LGBTPM ALLIES LIST FOR FRESNO. Note: this information has not
been updated since 2002 and may have some changes.
Updated 4/2004 (Note only) -1-
3075 North Maroa 224-1024
This is still the most popular gay club and maybe the most popular club in Fresno. Wednesday night used
to be a great time (2-for-one drinks and lotsa hotties) but, alas, straight people infested it (sorry, that
wasn‟t very nice, I was kicked out of Berkeley for being un-PC), and the gay crowd is probably a semi-
minority and mostly very young. (Still 2-for-1 drinks, but not 2-for-1 hotties.) Tuesday night is Lesbian
night which is pretty key since the Palace, the only Dyke bar in town, went under more than a year ago. I
haven‟t been there on Tuesday night. Saturday night is still the best night – the Express still packs the
gay boys in on Saturday. Friday can have a good crowd too. The Express also has a swank restaurant
inside that is part of a nice piano bar (the tweakers from the main bar generally don‟t go in there). The
restaurant is rather expensive. I haven‟t eaten there but the chef made me some tasty snacks one night.
The owner is pretty active in local gay politics and allows the fledgling Fresno Stonewall Club to hold
its meetings there on a monthly basis.
The Express used to be located on North Blackstone but they lost their lease and the owners of the
building re-opened fairly recently with some remodeling under the name of the 708 Club. (Finally that
dance floor is fixed - it was about as dangerous as the train tracks for a drag queen after one or two dirty
The 708 Club
708 North Blackstone 445-0878
This was the Express. I like this place a lot – I just wish more people would go there. It has the best
space of all the bars. The 708 generally does well on Thursday night‟s Latino night. The 708 will
sometimes really pack „em in, especially if they have drag queens brought in from Mexico to perform on
Thursday night. The 708 pulls in an even crowd on the weekend but I have been horribly disappointed on
Wednesday at times (had to drown my sorrows in 2-for-1 drinks). This bar definitely gets cutest
bartenders award. (You‟d think more people would come, huh? What‟s the world coming to?) They
need to fix up what used to be the video room of the Express, but otherwise they have made great
improvements on the club.
Quite close to University Medial Center are three more bars, one of which has been over there
forever. From the 708 Club you can go east on Belmont – it might seem scary, but look at it this
way – you work over there!
4618 East Belmont 251-5898
This place gets an older crowd – some of the patrons have been around before “gay” took on its current
connotation. So it is with great terror that I tell you that this bar actually has an Underwear Night
(shudder). I shouldn‟t say that because I haven‟t been – and that‟s not because all my thongs are at the
tailors. I should go, though, as a professional who investigates the intricacies of the GLBT Community of
Frezoo for all you fresh-faced medical students who are looking for more than just a George Clooney-
esque Trauma experience at UMC. It‟s a friendly crowd and Latino night on Saturday night is busy and a
lot of fun. There are occasional BBQs on the patio on Sundays. This bar is owned by the same guy who
owns NTC, so you sometimes see the same guard from NTC in the parking lot (maybe he drives back and
Updated 4/2004 (Note only) -2-
4438 East Belmont 251-5972
This ain‟t no Eagle, but its Frezoo‟s version of a levi/leather bar. It‟s small with a ratty patio area but
they play the best music in Fresno (not your run-of-the-mill gay disco junk). Very friendly place that
rarely is super busy, but it‟s a nice hang out place. They also have one lesbian night. The bar got fined
and shut down about a year ago for showing naughty movies during business hours but they have re-
opened and now show only Disney-like videos (uh, yeah).
3848 East Belmont 442-1818
This is as Latino as it gets, baby. I went there a couple times when I was doing outreach with the now-
defunct Central Valley AIDS Team and its like a whole other world. I haven‟t been there for a while but
the owner used to make great Mexican food. My Spanish is getting better, so I‟ll have to go back.
706 W. Shaw 224-5100
The beer here is far better than the dancing, which was pretty much just us on the tow or three nights
there. They do have a great selection of self brewed beers though, and its right down the street from the
The VIP Room
1440 E Shaw Ave. 228-9222
A decent bar/club with live bands on the weekends. No super great for dancing, but depending on the
band that was playing it could be a lot of fun.
Formally known as Chiquitos: 1291 S. Chestnut Ave. 255-6722
Though it may appear a little shady at first, this is actually a fun place to go for drinks and some Latin
dancing. If you're not Latino, be prepared to be the only one who isn't in the club, but don't let that stop
North Point Bar & Grill
6737 N. Palm Ave. 447-8500
A little bit on the trendier, yuppie side of things, this club had pretty good music and dancing.
The Dance Place
6049 N. Palm Ave. 439-5349
This is a gay club gone strait, with a sizable cover and a long line on a Saturday night. We never actually
made it into the club, though with that large a crowd I suppose it must be good. Lots of Hip-Hop as far as
we could tell.
Like most places in Clovis, this bar/club was definitely white-people overload. The music wasn't that
great, and we'd recommend skipping it unless you're quite bored.
Updated 4/2004 (Note only) -3-
1302 East Olive (559) 23-PRIDE (clever!)
From the title you‟d think that the Fresno GLBT Community was fierce! Sadly, if you have been to gay
pride in Fresno you know that‟s not the case, but let‟s hope this newspaper – a very recent addition to the
rag circulation – will inspire and actually empower. Empower is put together by the Central California
Pride Network (CCPN) and has its office in the Tower.
Community Link (559) 266-LINK (clever, as well!)
This, not-always-a-piece-of-junk, rag is published the third Friday of every month by Community Link.
The nice thing about this paper is that it has a section that includes advertisements from a lot of the main
players in the community. It also includes an inane column called “Coffee Talk” where some bonehead
tries to handle difficult questions such as whether he wears boxers or briefs (duhhhh…which way did he
Pride Parade and Festival
First weekend of June Olive Avenue, The Tower
Some friends of mine in SF still giggle about the Fresno Gay Pride celebration they attended with me
about 4 years ago. It really was pathetic and they still refer to it as “Gay Shame”. And every year it truly
got worse. Actually the saddest part of this is that nobody goes which is a shame given the huge amount
of gays and lesbians in Fresno. (The internet chat rooms have destroyed any hope of community
organization in Fresno by letting the mass of closeted folks do their business in secrecy.) This year I
thought it was really gonna be bad because it was a non-alcohol event. (OK, everybody start your chant
now: “We’re here, we’re queer, and we don’t drink beer!”) This year I really liked it. It was small and
early in the day to avoid too much heat. Everybody seemed really happy and there was only one drag
Fresno REEL PRIDE (Gay & Lesbian Film Festival)
November 2001 www.reelpride.com
Well, well, well! This was quite a surprise and just a great event! Hats off to the organizers. It‟s now
held at the Tower theatre and lasts year‟s event was fantabulous. I was able to drag a couple friends out
from SF and they really loved it. It is going to be extended to 4 days of films this year. Now all we nee d
is a good protest and then we‟ll know we‟ve hit the big time!
Central California Alliance (CCA)
P.O. Box 16422 Fresno 93755 265-7117 www.newhorizondesign.com/cca
This was a business and professional organization. When I first came to Fresno I went to a couple of their
events and it was really interesting how there is this whole other group of people that you never see
anywhere in town that are having lavish parties. I went to a Christmas party in this massive home and
never knew there were that many queers in Fresno. I didn‟t attend any more of their events because they
didn‟t seem to have much purpose besides these parties but lately they have been involved in a lot more
fund raising and sponsoring community events. Actually they are marketing themselves now as a
Updated 4/2004 (Note only) -4-
Community Service Organization. Every month they have an event and recently they sponsored a visit by
Barney Frank whose speech was very rousing and entertaining.
This is a new organization for young, gay Latinos. They meet the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month.
I heard they meet in a Catholic Church! Mother of God! Ellos Latinos seem to be a pretty active group,
getting heavy into sponsoring events. (Some of „em are pretty heavy into make-up too!)
Fresno Stonewall Democrats
Contact: Jay Hubbell at 229-4905
Very new, just starting up and all thanks to Jay. Meetings are held at the Express the third Tuesday of the
month. Still defining its purpose as of this writing. Fortunately there‟s no Log Cabin group that I know
of in town (you‟d think there would be given that this is a conservative stronghold). I‟d have to say that
most gay people here are usually quite conservative in their voting patterns or they just don‟t vote.
(Certainly not an unbiased study I performed.)
The Living Room
420 North Broadway (south Tower) 485-3667
This is a case management organization for people living with HIV and AIDS but also those at risk for
HIV infection. They have a calendar of events which includes support groups, etc. There is a drop in
center, pantry, and thrift store. If you are interested in volunteering, call Ronnie Drinnon. Associated
with it is a pilot project for queer youth called Destination Out. It consists of a drop in center for youth,
the majority of whom are homeless and many of which work the park. There is mobile testing weekly
and activities. Fresno is one of eight California cities to have this pilot program. Destination Out has a
sister program very near to UMC that tries to capture the queer Latino youth at Barrios Unidos. There
are numerous other organizations, such as United Black Men, that I know nothing about (sorry).
Updated 4/2004 (Note only) -5-
First Congretional Church (The Big Red Church)
2131 N Van Ness Ave 227-8489
Very supportive of the community. They actually have a contingent in the pride parade.
The Orthodox Community of Saint Mary of Magdala
1133 East Belmont in the Tower237-6220
Contemporary, open church. Sunday service 10:30 a.m.
Wesley United Methodist Church
1343 East Barstow Avenue 224-1947
“Committed to the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the
church and community”. Sunday worship at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Most of the restaurants in the Tower are gay friendly, especially Veni Vedi Vici, Echo, and Brix.
There‟s also Irene’s that has been a mainstay for gays forever. At times that place can be straight up
Castro on Sunday mornings for breakfast. Irene‟s has a great patio, the food is solid, and they are a big
supporter of the community.
Where there are coffee shops, there are gays. I never thought I‟d say this, but I do go to the Tower‟s
Starbucks (you have to understand that we don‟t have many choices here…I feel so ashamed) which
always has a strong showing from the gay community.
1435 North Van Ness Ave. (in the Tower) 233-8346
Has a Gay & Lesbian film section plus lotsa foreign films and specialty movies. Very friendly owners.
You can pick up the gay rags there too.
Only For You
1460 North Van Ness Avenue (in the Tower) 498-0284
This is the gay paraphernalia store – buttons, shirts, guides, hats, etc. Also naughty movies (eek!).
Fresno Pride www.fresnopride.com
Online guide to Fresno‟s queer side as well as email service and free online greeting cards.
Updated 4/2004 (Note only) -6-