An Insider’s Guide to LGBTQ+ Covington, Kentucky
Covington is a queer-friendly hot spot in Northern Kentucky overlooking the Ohio River, where art, food, culture and queerness come together to form a harmonious enclave. The city is also home to rustic taverns, high-end bistros and waterfront hotels perfect for an extended stay.
But there’s more to Covington being an LGBTQ+ leader than just its inclusive businesses. The Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index – which measures how each city’s laws, policies and services treat and protect its LGBTQ+ population and employees – gives Covington a score of 96 out of 100, making it one of the Bluegrass State’s most inclusive cities.
In fact, back in 2003 Covington became an inclusive pioneer when it first passed a Human Rights Ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes against discrimination. The city continues to grow in that regard 20 years later, offering a host of LGBTQ-friendly attractions and businesses.
Here’s a look at a few of them!
Hotel Covington – as historic as it is quaint, as inclusive as it is chic – is a modern property in the heart of downtown that hosts the annual NKY Pride Festival. Formerly Coppin’s Department Store, the building has retained its original architecture, with tastefully appointed nods to its roots, while evolving its look to become one of the coolest designed hotels in the state.
This charming little bagel shop is owned by Julia Keister, a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and serves up some of the best bagels around. The serene courtyard here offers a respite from the bustling downtown vibe, but you’ll also want to stroll the nearby waterfront – coffee and bagel in hand – for a true Covington experience. Since opening, the bagel shop has been a leader in community engagement and LGBTQ+ fundraising in the area.
The Cellar is a fun and buzzy nightclub in German-themed Mainstrasse Village, offering some of the city’s best entertainment seven nights a week, including drag shows, karaoke and goth nights. It’s a great place to grab a drink and go dancing with friends in a welcoming environment.
Creative House of Art and Design
Known locally as CHAD (or Mr. Chad to some!) this queer-friendly, family-owned space offers a whimsical shopping section filled with knickknacks, homemade tchotchkes, novelties, art supplies and gifts for all ages, as well as workshops for the whole family. If you’re looking for a slightly more adult-themed experience, check out the bar in the back, serving up craft beers and fun libations. You can even take your drink outside to a charming patio!
The rainbow balloons outside Bar 32 signal that everyone is welcome in this fun neighborhood gay bar. Located in the city’s art district, this no-frills spot offers a relaxed place to play pool or settle into a cozy nook to enjoy creative cocktails. (Pro tip! Bong Water is a favorite among the locals.)
Just a hop, skip and a jump across the rainbow-colored crosswalk is Rosie’s Tavern, a gay bar mainstay that’s non-pretentious and hetero-friendly. Strong cocktails, nice people and a refreshing outdoor picnic area make this one of the city’s most inclusive places to have a drink.
This pride center in Covington adds a sense of welcome and safety for all LGBTQ+ visitors, where they can learn about safe spaces and experiences. The center also organizes an annual local pride festival and other LGBTQ+ events throughout the year.
Hannah Lowen knows bourbon. And inside her unique distillery, she’s curating small-batch bourbon that can match any in the state. (She also hosts bourbon tours throughout the city!) This edgy, bourbon-focused distillery is a must-see for all, especially queer visitors looking to see how influential their community has been in the evolution of bourbon making.
Charm and history come together at this historic German-style clock tower, located in Goebel Park. The bell tower was designed by architect Addison Clipson and his partner, Bill Batson. It’s an idyllic spot to stroll Philadelphia Street to the park, take photos and appreciate the craftsmanship of one of the finest old-world clock towers in America.
Otto’s on Main
A favorite for brunch, Otto’s remains a staple on the Covington dining scene thanks to its farm-to-table recipes and welcoming staff. This intimate American bistro is a favorite among local LGBTQ+ patrons and remains one of the friendliest restaurants in the city.