Atlanta has seen many bars come and go over the years, but few if any have stood the test time of time quite the way that Atlanta Eagle has. Celebrate with them this weekend.
By Matthew Holley
One of Atlanta’s longest-running gay bars, the Atlanta Eagle has stayed hip and true to its mission, serving up a haven for all of LGBT Atlanta, with a special nod to the leather and fetish lovers among us. Now, the Eagle celebrates another chapter in an incredible history—its 30th anniversary—with the annual Atlanta Leather Pride weekend.
The venue hasn’t changed in 30 years, but the Eagle was originally dubbed Renegade’s, an ambitious gay country bar owned and operated by Jay Evans. Renegade’s never took off as hoped, so Evans re-opened it as the beloved Eagle. As well all know today, the Eagle has been soaring to new heights ever since.
Ownership changed hands to Richard Ramey and his former partner Rob Kelley in 1997, who have now overseen 20 of the bar’s 30 years.
“I was one of the Eagle’s original customers,” Ramey remembers. “We were officers in the Southern Bears Club. The Eagle has always been a home to LGBT organizations and sports teams. There were rumors flying around about ending the Eagle’s support of those groups. We knew that couldn’t happen. So we bought it and I have been there ever since.”
Despite the Eagle’s ups and downs, an infamous raid, and a few makeovers over the years, its spirit and love for gay Atlanta have always remained the same, Ramey says.
“It is hard to narrow down my favorite experience at the Eagle,” he ponders. “Probably the most rewarding experience I can describe is the simple fact that I have always been able to go to the Eagle and be myself.
“Being a young, overweight 18-19 year old kid in the South, you don’t always fit in everywhere,” he adds. “The Eagle was a safe space, and that is the atmosphere I have tried to maintain in my 20 years of ownership.”
Regardless of the Eagle’s camaraderie with the community, the beloved bar has been subjected to some outsider scrutiny and injustice, none worse than the raid of 2009 by the Atlanta Police Department’s Red Dog Unit.
“That was a tough and scary time,” Ramey recalls. “We were thrown to the ground, stomped, kicked and yelled at, all based on false information regarding alleged nudity and other illegal activities.”
The Eagle sued the city of Atlanta and police department for the false charges and reigned victorious. The unwarranted raid only further established the love the community has for this historic pillar.
Moving onward and upward in the years since, the Eagle celebrates 30 cherished years in addition to the annual Atlanta Leather Pride celebrations this weekend. Mr. and Ms. Atlanta Eagle and Mr. Southeast Rubber 2017 will be crowned on Saturday. Patrons can expect a kickoff party on Friday with beats spun by Atlanta-favorite DJ Ron Pullman, the SWEAT Victory Party on Saturday with DJ Neon the GlowGoBear and a triumphant return of the Eagle Balloon Drop at 1 a.m. complete with cash and prizes.
“The Eagle has meant so much to me and everyone I know,” Ramey says. “I hope everyone comes out to celebrate 30 wonderful years and look forward to many more, because we are still here and still going strong!”
Atlanta Eagle 30th Anniversary Weekend Kickoff Party
Friday April 7
10 p.m. – 3 a.m.
306 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE
Atlanta Eagle 30th Anniversary Celebration
ft. Mr. & Ms. Atlanta Eagle and Mr. Southeast Rubber Contests
Saturday, April 8
7 p.m. – 3 a.m.
Photos courtesy Project Q Atlanta