The Atlanta Eagle could reopen in its longtime home on Ponce de Leon Avenue, but first must reach an agreement with the building owner and negotiate “tons of repairs” needed to the nearly 130-year-old structure.
Richard Ramey, the bar’s owner, told supporters during a Facebook Live chat on Friday that he’s no longer searching for a new site for the bar. Instead, he’s focused on returning to the Midtown location the bar called home for 33 years but vacated in November. The abrupt change comes after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that the city is seeking to designate the building as a historic landmark.
“This is going to change everything in my opinion,” Ramey said.
“We now have a pathway to go back home to 306 [Ponce de Leon]. This pathway has not yet been completed. I am going to work with every ounce of being on my body to make sure this happens,” he added.
Ramey said he’ll be talking with the building owner soon about the possibility of returning. But the structure is in need of “massive repairs,” Ramey said, and the Eagle won’t open there unless the site sees improvements.
“If and when we go back into our home at 306, the building is going to be renovated. We are not going back in the condition that building was in in the last several years,” he said.
Ramey said he’s had preliminary discussions with the building owner about returning, but not since the mayor announced Thursday that the structure should be saved by designating it a landmark.
“We‘ve got to get together and finalize all the details. The Atlanta Eagle or Richard Ramey does not own 306. He has assured me that the door is open to us,” Ramey said.
Designating the building as a landmark would prevent it from being demolished and mandate that exterior changes be approved in advance by the city’s Urban Design Commission, according to Bottoms. The commission will hold a public hearing Jan. 13 to consider the historic designation for the structure.
In October, Ramey told Project Q Atlanta that he was one year into his final three-year lease and that the building owner had a buyer. That, combined with plummeting revenue thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, convinced Ramey to close the Eagle.
On Friday, Ramey did not detail what repairs the building needs, the cost or who would pay for them. Ramey has had four landlords in the 23 years he’s owned the Eagle and repeatedly said they have been reluctant to repair and improve the building.
“There are tons of repairs that have to be done. That’s going to be the main focus. There is no way we will get back into 306 without major major renovations,” Ramey said.
If the Eagle returns to its former home, supporters might not see a re-opening until October 2021. It depends on the pandemic and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines, Ramey said.
“I was thinking late summer or early fall for a reopening. I’m probably still looking at that timeframe,” he said.
The pandemic – its threat to the health of patrons and its devastating impact on revenue – pushed Ramey to close the bar. It’s a decision he still stands by.
“There was no way I could run a nightclub in the middle of winter during this pandemic when we’re losing over 3,000 people a day. I just wasn’t going to do it. I wouldn’t care if it was landmarked or not. It wasn’t going to have my name on it. I just couldn’t bear the responsibility,” Ramey said.
The longtime bar owner also applauded Bottoms for pursuing the landmark designation. He joked that a re-opened Eagle will offer a drink named in the mayor’s honor – Bottoms Up.
“I truly thank Mayor Bottoms from the bottom of my heart for her dedication and love to this community,” Ramey said.