Atlanta group launches bid to save Heretic from possible demolition

A gay preservationist wants to protect the Heretic from a new MARTA station that could one day lead to the demolition of the longtime gay dance bar.

A new light rail station could replace Heretic and BJ Roosters at the intersection of Cheshire Bridge and Faulkner roads starting in less than a decade, MARTA has told neighborhood groups. MARTA officials told Project Q Atlanta in September that it’s one of several plans being evaluated and the timeline could change.

Historic Atlanta, a volunteer-run group dedicated to preserving city landmarks, isn’t taking any chances. Charlie Paine, chair of the group’s LGBTQ Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, sent a letter to MARTA officials on Saturday and explained the Heretic's historic significance to LGBTQ Atlanta. He asked them to “immediately” look for alternative sites for the station.

“Historic Atlanta believes that the [Heretic] structure is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for its association with the LGBTQ community,” Paine wrote.

The letter was sent to MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker, board Chair Robbie Ashe, the agency's board of directors, the State Historic Preservation Office and Atlanta City Councilmember Jennifer Ide.

The building’s LGBTQ history goes back to the early 1970s, when it housed the lesbian bar the Sports Page, according to Paine.

“It is the most significant monument to the LGBTQ history and memories of Cheshire Bridge Road remaining,” he told Project Q.

MARTA’s plans for the new station also present a potential legal conflict with the Department of Transportation Act, which prevents federal agencies from using the land of historic properties unless there is no alternative, according to Paine.

“We believe the station can be relocated or reconfigured to exclude the building and allow the establishment to continue business without looming eminent domain processes,” he said.

A MARTA spokesperson said the letter hasn't been reviewed yet by agency lawyers.

“A response will be sent to Charlie Paine directly once the letter has been reviewed and the concerns better understood,” said Pia Forbes, MARTA’s senior director of communications.

Ide said MARTA should give "serious consideration" to Historic Atlanta's request.

"It is important that Cheshire Bridge’s place in LGBTQ history not be erased as development changes this area," she said. "There should be time permitted to allow Historic Atlanta and others time to make an application for protection for the building while MARTA considers alternatives."

Heretic General Manager Alan Collins praised Historic Atlanta’s actions.

“I applaud the efforts of this group,” he said. “There is so much history here, and I’ve had the honor to witness it for 25 years. It would be a tragic loss for our community to lose it.”

“Heretic has proudly served this community for 28 years and we’ll continue doing so as long as we can,” he added.

The Clifton Corridor project, estimated to cost between $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion, would connect the Lindbergh Center MARTA station to new stations on Cheshire Bridge Road and near Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The light rail line would parallel the CSX railroad, which runs along the southern border of the property where BJ Roosters and Heretic sit.

LGBTQ nightlife on Cheshire Bridge Road has slowly eroded over the years. Eros and Jungle closed in 2017, New Covenant Church of Atlanta moved to southeast Atlanta in 2018 and Manifest closed in June. Manifest’s owners said the club would reopen in a new location. Tokyo Valentino is in the midst of a long-running lawsuit with the City of Atlanta.