One of the most instantly recognizable mainstays of American culture is the sports bar. Sporting events are shown on huge LED flat-screens at every corner. Maybe there’s a couple pool tables, maybe there are darts. Bar food staples like wings, burgers, and mozzarella sticks are served alongside pitchers of beer as patrons cheer when their team scores and commiserate when they lose.
Upon walking into Woofs, you would assume it was one of the same — and in many ways, it is. Upon closer examination, though, you would see the clientele is not what you would typically find at a traditional sports bar.
“[Woofs] would be your traditional sports bar, the only difference is that we’re gay-owned and -operated and extremely gay-friendly,” Woofs owner Gregory Hughes told Georgia Voice.
What started as an annual Super Bowl party at Hughes’ home quickly grew into a beloved establishment among Atlanta’s LGBTQ sports fans. While they are welcoming to everyone (straight people included), for more than two decades Woofs has been the only sports bar in Atlanta specifically catering to the LGBTQ community.
“The world of sports can be, I’ll say, gay-unfriendly,” Hughes said. “What people don’t realize is that there are a lot of gay sports fans and a lot of passionate gay sports fans. They [usually] can’t show that passion in a traditionally straight sports bar. They can’t jump up and down and kiss their partner — or they can do it, but it would get a lot of looks and probably some nasty snarls. In our environment [at Woofs], they can be open and who they want to be and celebrate with their other gay friends, and nobody looks sideways at it.”
With its success, Woofs was able to relocate and expand in 2019 and then survive through the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the loyalty of both its customer base and employees. Last year, Woofs was even featured as one of the most popular LGBTQ bars in the country to view the Super Bowl in by HER; it was the only Southern establishment to be included.
Woofs uses this success to give back to the community that has supported it so ardently. As a sports-related establishment, it’s no surprise that Woofs supports and sponsors several of Atlanta’s LGBTQ sports leagues, including the Hotlanta Softball League, the Hotlanta Volleyball Association, the National Gay Flag Football League, and the Atlanta Bucks rugby league. The bar also supports a number of nonprofits serving the LGBTQ community, like Lost-n-Found Youth, Pets Are Loving Support, Joining Hearts, AID Atlanta, and Jerusalem House, both with donations and by offering space to host fundraising events.
Coming up, Woofs will participate in Dining Out for Life on April 26. The annual dining fundraising event raises money for community-based organizations serving people living with HIV. Atlanta’s supported organization is Open Hand Atlanta, which provides healthy meals and nutrition education to people struggling with chronic illnesses or food insecurity. On April 26, at least 25 percent of sales made at Woofs and other participating restaurants will be donated to Open Hand.
Woofs will also host some of the Atlanta Bear Pride festivities happening from April 21 to 23. The weekend kicks off at Woofs for the warmup party on April 21 and the bar will also host a Sunday Funday party on April 23. You can find more information on these events and Atlanta Bear Pride on page 20 or online at atlantabearpride.com.