Here are SFGN's "Best of 2018" winners in the Bars and Clubs category in Broward County.
Best Bar Dance Theme
2232 Wilton Drive
Best bar, best place to dance, best theme night, best karaoke and best bartender - all went to Hunters.
“Hunters Wilton Manors was voted best bar because we have the best customers in the world,” said co-owner Mark Hunter. “If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t be Hunters Wilton Manors! Also, we have an amazing team at Hunters Wilton Manors and as the saying goes… it takes a village. I want to recognize my co-owner Patrick Volkert, our general manager Bruce Howe and our manager support team of Randy D’Agostino, Natasha Ribas and Kurtis Solomon. I also have to mention our stellar bar staff members. They are kind, efficient, friendly and are all great people. Electrum Branding is our new media company and they have been doing a great job in getting the word out. Thanks to all!”
Hunter, an accomplished ballroom dancer, and Volkert, a systems engineer, were a couple for many years, owning nightclubs in Chicago and California. Now just business partners, the men bought Hunters in 2013, ordered a complete renovation and built its street cred by helping local non-profits and sponsoring recreational teams.
Sunday Tea Dance is a big night with DJ Richie Rich running sound. The dance floor section of the club has it all. Lights, fog, dancers, a big screen projector and music to help get your feet shuffling. Climb the stairs to get a glimpse of those sweaty dancers from Sal’s Starlight Lounge. The lounge is named after the late Studio 54 bartender Sal DeFalco, who helped Hunters open. A visit to the lounge during high tea is one way to fulfill Hunters' promise of “Spirits Elevated.”
Best Gay Friendly Straight Bar
Flip Flops Dockside Eatery
3051 NE 32nd Ave.
Michael Pinto and Anne Ginsburg identify as straight, but their business caters to all sexual orientations.
The duo opened Flip Flops Dockside Eatery in 2010 with a particular concept that stands to this day: “The doors are open to all. If you respect us, we respect you.” That concept has attracted many LGBT customers over the years.
Pinto said he also had a gay following at the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale where he used to operate Michael’s Galleria Café. When he opened Flip Flops, much of his clientele followed him, he said.
The typical customer at Flip Flops, said Pinto, is 30 to 60 years old and a mix of sexual orientations. Last year, Flip Flops hosted its first lesbian wedding.
“And our staff is diverse, but often predominately gay,” Pinto said. “We hire people based on talent.”
Soon after opening, one of Pinto’s DJs suggested he start a T-Dance (a kind of gay happy hour). A gay bar nearby on the water used to host one.
“It made us a different alternative than being on the Drive [in Wilton Manors],” Pinto said.
Months later, the same DJ suggested Pinto bring on a drag performer, and he did. Amanda Austin has been performing at Flip Flops for the past six years on the first Sunday of every month.
The slogan at Flip Flops is “Key West meets Fort Lauderdale,” and the décor fits as does the open air bar and dining area.
“We didn’t want to be formal. Just good food and a place to hang out,” Pinto said. “On the water you can charge more, but we’re happy with what we’re making and we’re not out to gouge people,” Pinto said.
Best Happy Hour & The Best Drink
Georgies Alibi and their Long Island Iced Tea
2266 Wilton Dr.
This is the third-time Alibi has won Best Happy Hour with our readers.
General manager Jeff Gapinski theorizes that it’s because most visitors “start with happy hour and stay for a show.” He also attributes their happy hours’ success to the accompanying specials on eats.
Their happy hour is more like a happy day, with hours Monday through Thursday beginning from opening time at 11 a.m., all the way until 9 p.m., typically just as live entertainment is starting. Happy Hour is all day on Fridays.
During their Happy Hour, enjoy two-for-one drinks and see Tony and Gloria play live jazz and old standards 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.
The Alibi Long Island Iced Tea has also won Best Drink – for the second time.
It’s an amber-hued drink alcoholic beverage with a combination of gin, tequila, vodka, rum, and triple sec. Gapinski said the five liquors are free-poured, never pre-mixed. They are $3 d and served in a mason jar at the bar.
“The Alibi Long Island Iced Tea has been an institution in Wilton Manors for 21 years” Gapinski said.
Customer Mark Viens said on the weekends he “may go to more than one bar, but I like to start my night with their 3-dollar Long Island Iced Tea.”
I tried the mason-jarred wonder myself and had a fun, strong evening. We hope you do too.
Best Bar For Lesbians
Rumors Bar & Grill
2426 Wilton Drive
Spread the word – everybody loves Rumors.
Established as a bar where anyone can feel like a part of the conversation, Rumors Bar & Grill has won for “Best Bar For Lesbians.” This is the third time they’ve brought home the grand prize.
“We welcome this,” Owner Nick Berry said. “Everyone comes to Rumors for a great time and great food. It wasn’t exactly our intention, but we’re glad to be here for the lesbian community.”
Indeed, it's diversity that’s been key to the bar’s success. “The place for great drinks, food, people and entertainment,” Rumors features a video bar, sports bar, martini lounge and a dining patio.
As soon as visitors walk in the door they are greeted by a laid-back space to watch a game, play a pool tournament, watch a drag show, see a live concert, or try pen-and-paper-less trivia each week.
Hungry guests will be well received at the bar and grill; the kitchen is Palate Party featuring Celebrity Chef Robyn Almodovar, where you can order brunch, lunch, or dinner – I recommend the Southwestern egg rolls.
With such variety, it’s no wonder so many people enjoy great times and good Rumors.
Bar for Twinks
2345 Wilton Drive
This is the second consecutive year The Manor has won “Best Bar for Twinks.”
General manager Gary Santis envisions The Manor as “A place for all kinds of demographics, where the LGBTQ community and the heterosexual community can dance the night away under the most mind blowing light show, with remote trusses and lasers.”
What sets The Manor apart from other bars is the sheer size of the complex, which allows it to primarily function as a dance club.
The Manor complex can support up to 1,500 guests with its 16,000 square feet of multi-level, multi-room dance spaces; and it hasn’t stopped growing.
“The Empire Ballroom opened adjacent to The Manor hosts special events, specializing in weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and birthdays. It’s a huge multi level venue which can hold a large number of guests,” Santis said.
So try their charitable events like past “Broward Bares All” and “Pink Party for Cancer Awareness” fundraisers, but before you hit the dance floor - don’t forget to order sugar-free Redbulls for your friends.