Bear Happy Hour: The ‘Non-Party’ Taking the Bear Scene By Storm

A new kind of meetup has been growing in popularity the past year in several bear communities across America. Imagine going to a bar to meet other like-minded guys with the intention of just connecting through conversation. No TV show to watch, no performances, no blaring music preventing you from talking one-on-one like real people. No pressure to look pretty or present. Welcome to Bear Happy Hour.

Since September of 2022, this weekly gathering has been growing rapidly in popularity in New York City. Its first occurrence drew about 20 people; now upwards of 200 come and go on any given night. In June of this year its founder, a bear named Andrew, AKA Coach Daddy Drew, took a chance and brought it to L.A., where it fast became the thing to do on Thursdays after work. Then in July it started in Vegas, where it’s shown similar growth and promise.

Meant to be a held social space for connection, after work before the usual playtime hours, Bear Happy Hour is the spiritual successor to an event Drew attended years ago before the pandemic called Beers and Bears, which was weekly at the Ritz in NYC. Then we all went into our houses for two-plus years. When life got somewhat normal again, he decided to bring it back, but this time spreading the love around the neighborhood by going to a different bar each week.

With the intention of bringing rainbow dollars to rainbow businesses, the inclusive, multigenerational event is designed to be a low-stakes gathering free of social pressure. It changes venues week to week to both facilitate a change of scenery for patrons and to ensure people from all different parts of the city have access to the event. Music is kept deliberately on the quiet side to encourage conversation, the cornerstone of connection with new faces and old friends. And it seems to be working in spades.

(Photo by Ian Havens)

“The Bear Happy Hour has been a welcoming space for bears and their bear adjacent friends,” says Paul Martin, a regular at the event in NYC who’s been over 20 times, “and Drew has worked hard to ensure they have fostered an inclusive environment where no one feels excluded. I’ve met so many wonderful people at the Bear Happy Hours, some of which have become good friends as a result.”

Marquez Dickson, a patron in L.A., feels similarly. “I enjoy Bear Happy Hour because it embodies the inclusivity of the bear community,” he shares. “Every person I’ve encountered there has been friendly and open to chatting. Personally, I’ve made meaningful connections, like meeting a fantastic guy at the last event. We had a brunch and got to know each other better, which I believe is the beginning of a strong bond. Additionally, the timing of the events works well for me. I’ve been to two so far and plan to attend more!”

And in Vegas, the youngest of the happy hours, the feedback is just as positive. “It’s actually been really rewarding to see a weekly event do so well here in Las Vegas,” says Gary Brewer, president of Bears Las Vegas. “Often times Vegas locals can be jaded about new ideas or events, so it’s been really refreshing to see such a great turnout of familiar and new faces alike at an event, which in theory isn’t that out of the ordinary, but in practice has been pretty revolutionary.… it’s nice to go to something that doesn’t have any set programming — it’s just friends enjoying drinks together in a familiar setting once a week. No fundraising, no speeches, just hanging out.”

We recently chatted with Coach Daddy Drew to get better insight into his very popular non-party party of sorts.

Bear World Magazine: Let’s say Bear Happy Hour is a superhero. What’s its origin story?

Coach Daddy Drew: In cities with loud bars and late parties one bear seeks to do the unthinkable: organize a weekly happy hour event to inspire conversation and connection for the bear community. All before 9 PM on a school night!

BWM: How would you describe a typical BHH for someone who’s never been?

CDD: It’s an event you can go to entirely by yourself and you’ll probably see an old friend or make some new ones! It’s a very friendly bunch of guys. Everyone comes to Bear Happy Hour (usually from work) at the same level. No one’s pre-gamed, or party-favored. It makes it easier to talk, connect, and get socially lubricated, together. 

BWM: Networking vs. Dating: Is this an event for one or the other, neither, or a little of column A, a little of column B?

CDD: I think it’s entirely what you want to make it and there’s no expectation or pressure for either. Connection is really at the core of the experience and wherever you want to take that is entirely up to you. That being said, this community is filled with some brilliantly creative people who are doing and making amazing things and, of course, some very sexy guys as well!  

(Photo by: Jae Martin)

BWM: You’ve just recently started the event in L.A. and Las Vegas. How has the response from the patrons and host venues been?

CDD: I’ve gotten so many thank-yous from attendees that I’ve lost count! I’m reminded weekly how needed this space is for the community. The venues love it. Some of these places are seeing a 1,000% increase in sales during a Bear Happy Hour event over a regular Thursday.

BWM: How is BHH different from the other events in the bear scene?

CDD: I think that it’s low-stakes and no pressure. Other gay nightlife events can set an expectation of sex or a hookup and this is about meeting up, decompressing from the work week, sharing a laugh or a hug. Also, we are a supportive, and inclusive space! This is for all bodies not just traditional bears! 

BWM: Where would you like to see this event one year from now?

CDD: I’m in three cities currently and I’d like to be in 10 in a year’s time. I want this event to serve as a beacon when you’re traveling. To be able to drop by a Bear Happy Hour in any major city and meet new people, figure out your weekend plans, etc., would be amazing. I love traveling and bringing this event across the country. I plan to launch Chicago next.

BWM: You say you may have an altogether different event in the works, one centered around dancing. Can you give us a sneak peek into that?

CDD: Yes, as Bear Happy Hour is a space for connection, we also need a space to DANCE! In the coming months I’ll be starting Coach After Dark, a sports gear disco. An announcement will be coming soon on the Happy Hour pages.

(Photo by Ian Havens)

If you’d like to attend the Bear Happy Hour, you’ll need to follow them on Instagram to find out the new location each week:

New York City l Los Angeles l Las Vegas

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Homer Marrs

Homer Marrs is the former Gay & Lesbian editor of Time Out Chicago and a former staff writer for Las Vegas Magazine. He has also contributed to American Theatre, Showbiz Weekly, Envy Man, Reno Outlands, and Chicago's Nightspots magazines, and was a literature editor for The McGraw-Hill Companies. He plays music and pursues acting in Los Angeles and happily curates the Bear World Playlist for Bear World Magazine.