What is it?
A backstreet beer bar serving up a strange mix of drag, stand-up comedy, and heavy metal.
Gaukurinn was a beer bar before it was legal to sell beer.
The day it became legal—March 1, 1989— is now a national holiday (“Beer Day”) in Iceland.
But rewind to 1983, when Gaukurinn opened its doors, advertising itself as a “beer bar” in a devil-may-care jab at the establishment. To circumvent the ban, Gaukurinn (then known as Gaukur á Stöng) sold bjórlíki or “near beer”, a non-alcoholic beer mixed with vodka or whiskey. Ironically, liquor and wine were legalized much earlier to protect Iceland’s trade ties with Spain.
Throughout the years, the bar has changed both hands and names–it was briefly named after an Icelandic cult classic film Sódóma Reykjavík–but it has always remained a hot spot for live shows, especially rock concerts (and, of course, a haven for beer lovers).
Today, it’s the unofficial home of Iceland’s thriving metal scene and the slightly-more official home of the biweekly Drag-Súgur, Iceland’s biggest drag cabaret. Gaukurinn’s bond with Drag-Súgur led bar owners Sólveig Johnsen and Starri Hauksson to move toward a platform that’s consistently welcoming of LGBTQ+ visitors; because of its success in creating a safe space, it has, in recent years, gained a reputation as a go-to gay bar in Reykjavík.
Gaukurinn was also the first bar in Reykjavík to remove gender signs from its bathrooms. The owners consider the signs discriminatory because many of its patrons felt uncomfortable choosing a bathroom because of them. The owners believe that since the idea of two genders is obsolete, the signs are too.
Aside from Drag-Súgur and a host of regular live rock shows, Gaukurinn is also home to a free stand-up comedy show in English every Monday and a karaoke party every Tuesday. In between, they host events like poetry slams, burlesque shows, and dance parties.
As an added bonus, the cruelty-free restaurant Veganæs just opened up inside of the bar.
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 14 – 01 Friday – Saturday: 14 – 03
Happy Hour is from 14:00 – 21:00 every day.
(Veganæs opens at 16:00.)
Price range: 1100ISK-1300ISK for a beer, 600ISK at Happy hour