5801 Video Lounge & Bar offers safe space for LGBTQ+ community, allies


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

The outside of 5801 Video Lounge & Bar in Shadyside.

By Maria Scanga, Senior Staff Writer

With a simple golden orange infinity symbol above the entrance of the 5801 Video Lounge & Bar, the large eating area and several bar areas can come as quite a surprise. This was true for Heather White, a Pittsburgh native and sociologist, who said she wasn’t expecting 5801 to be so expansive.

“I’m here for the second time in a week, the food and the vibes are that good,” White said. “When I came over the weekend with friends I was afraid they wouldn’t have a table for our large group, but they definitely have plenty of space to go around.”

Voted as best LGBTQ+ bar by Pitt students, 5801 is located on Ellsworth Avenue, in the center of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood. 5801 features three bars in its building — one immediately upon entering, one after following a rainbow carpet upstairs and then another opposite their outdoor patio seating area.

Every weekday, from 5 to 7 p.m., the bar has a buy one, get one free appetizer special, which White said pairs well with Tuesday team trivia.

“I came back with my friends for the trivia, which some people are pretty die-hard about,” White said. “Including my own group since they were aggressive about the order we sit in for trivia.”

Trivia night is only one of 5801’s weekly events. According to Matt Jaworski, a Lawrenceville resident, a good introduction to 5801 is to come for Sunday brunch and a drag show, which the bar calls, “The Ladies Who Drag Brunch.” The show lasts from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the Sunday celebration extends all day, featuring an extensive draft list and food specials.

“I’ve been here by myself just for the drag show and a nice pick-me-up after a night out drinking,” Jaworski said.

According to Jaworksi, 5801 satisfies visitors with friendly service, good food and consistent entertainment, making it a good place for a first or second date.

“When I recommend to friends where they should go for their first date, or I myself have to choose a place, I’ll always recommend 5801,” Jaworski said. “You know you’re going to treated well, it’s a nice safe place for baby gays, and even if the date doesn’t work out, you can both say you had a good time.”

Boasting 15 different flat screen TVs, 5801 doesn’t shy from entertainment. On game days, there will be a Steelers game on one and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on another — they even honor requests, according to their website.  

The interior of 5801 Video Lounge & Bar in Shadyside.
(Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer)

Jason, who works in Pittsburgh, said they are a 5801 regular. The bartenders know them by name, and can have their usual drink — a rum and coke — ready without even having to ask. According to Jason, 5801 is the friendliest LGBTQ+ bar in the area.

“Pittsburgh has a lot of gay bars, but this is the one I return to because everyone is friendly and sociable,” Jason said. “It’s not just nice bartenders, but the stranger who sits next to me at the bar can become an instant friend by the end of the night.”

Even with a loyal clientele, White said she felt welcomed immediately. She said even though some of her friends referred to bartenders and staff by their first names, including their personal favorite bartender, Christie, White didn’t feel excluded.

“Christie [the bartender] will make you feel like her own after your first visit,” White said. “It’s my second time here but she already made me feel less socially anxious, telling me where I can sit and asking if it’s my first time here.”

White’s group of trivia partners were adamant about people coming not just for the food or the music videos or the bargoers, but for Christie herself. For Jason, his favorite part about 5801 is its inclusiveness, even with non-LGBTQ+ friends.

“It’s really nice to have a gay bar that mixes locals and visitors, regulars and non-regulars, without making it clear who is who,” Jason said. “I’m gay but I know some straight people who come just for the drag show or the food, and they’re welcomed with open arms.”

Jaworski shared similar sentiments about the “straight-friendly” nature of the bar, while still being an obviously queer space. He said while it is apparent 5801 is a gay bar, they’re not exclusive.

“If the rainbow carpet in the entrance doesn’t inform you that we’re mostly queer here, Rupaul’s songs being played every hour will,” Jaworski said. “But even still, there’s no one here policing the sexuality of patrons, and none of us are going to be offended if we try to flirt with you and you just mention you’re not into that.”

Upon exiting the upstairs seating area, which is also where the outdoor patio is located, a bright neon sign reading “YMCA” is illuminated against a neon pink background. White said she intends on becoming a trivia regular like her friends, with or without her favorite drink, the sugar cookie martini.

“I’m having a blast even without the drinks,” White said. “The music seems to cover all the genres, if I get bored of my friends I can just chat with the table behind us, it’s the best place to be for a newbie.” 

If the food, drinks, events and drag shows aren’t enough to entice people to visit 5801, Jason said the sense of community will.

“Most of us are no stranger to just wanting some company or people around us,” Jason said. “Coming here reminds me I’m just as important as the person next to me, and I’ll keep coming back just for the reminder.”