You already know that gay Atlanta likes to explore its kinky side and that the Eagle is its epicenter. Put them together, crank up the volume, and what do you get? Atlanta Leather Pride 2015.

The annual event returns this weekend, complete with its growl-worthy title contests and the Atlanta Eagle’s 28th anniversary. It may be hard to fathom that it's been nearly three decades since it opened and 18 years since Richard Ramey took over as co-owner before becoming the sole proprietor in the last year. But the time flew for Ramey, and running the bar is an honor he doesn’t take lightly, he tells Project Q.

“I feel like I’m the keeper of the Eagle and that it’s my responsibility to keep it going for the community,” he says. “I feel very fortunate and so happy that it continues to be such an important place and safe space for people to come who might not feel comfortable or welcomed in another bar.

“That’s what it was for me when I was just a customer, a place where I felt welcomed and part of something,” Ramey adds. “That’s what it stands for and why it’s such an honor to be able to keep it going for so long.”

Times have changed in the last 28 years, but the bar (photos) has stuck to the mission that makes the Eagle the Eagle, the owner says.

“What’s so fun about the Eagle is that the bar itself hasn’t changed that much over the years,” Ramey asserts. “Cosmetically we’ve updated it of course – the lights, DJ equipment, we added the double-deck patio, the dance floor. But I really feel the Eagle is still all the things people need it to be, and sometimes different things – a pub, dance bar, a leather bar.

“Social apps and the internet have changed the amount of people in the bar since the ‘90s," he adds, "but it’s still well attended and well supported beyond a place for hooking up. Whether you go to actually socialize or dance or hang out, it’s nice for us to still be one of the options after 28 years.”

 

‘All across the kink spectrum’

 

Of course, the bar is also home to Atlanta Leather Pride as the icing on the Eagle anniversary cake. The April 10-12 event starts with Friday’s Fetish Night Meet & Greet with Hotlanta Rubber, includes Saturday’s Beer Bust Barbecue, and wraps in a Sunday Leather Family Brunch at Roxx. It’s going to be another weekend to remember, says Pup Nitro, co-Producer of Atlanta Leather Pride.

“Every year we have people that come to the event from all over the country, and it is always very exciting to see them all come together,” Nitro says.

And it’s the same qualities that make the Eagle so special that make ALP such a welcoming event.

“One thing that you will notice is that Atlanta Leather Pride is not just for those that wear leather,” he says. “We welcome folks from all walks of life and all across the kink spectrum. Atlanta Leather Pride is all about providing a safe environment for us to enjoy our kinks and our lifestyle, as well as appreciate the differences that make us all so unique in what we enjoy.  No one needs to feel judged for who they are and what they enjoy, so this gives us all a safe place for expression.

 

Passing on a legacy

 

Don’t worry. We didn’t forget ALP’s signature Saturday events, the 2015 Mr. and Ms. Atlanta Eagle contests – and this year, Mr. Southeast Rubber. Those are followed by the Sweat Victory Party.

“We have some great contestants lined up for the contests that are going to happen on Saturday night,” Nitro says.

There’s a history of that being the case. Just take a look at its history of crowned Leather Daddies and Leather Ladies, including last year’s winner J.P. Paquette (bottom photo, left), who replaced Tank Teachworth (right), who took over from Jeff Donaldson, who won after Wayne Turpin, who took the title from Chandler Bearden, who was crowned in 2010. Alan Penrod won a revitalized Mr. Atlanta Eagle contest in 2009 and is ALP’s co-producer with Pup Nitro. The Ms. title went to Lizzy in 2013 and Jackie Hubschman in 2012.

They all had what it takes, but what is that exactly? Beyond looking hot in fetish gear, there’s a personality type that tends to get the nods from judges, Nitro says.

“The main things that we are looking for in our titleholders – Mr. and Ms. Atlanta Eagle and Mr. Southeast Rubber – are someone that can have fun and represent the bar, region and community well while doing it,” he says. “ We want folks that are approachable, and are willing to get out there and help our local community with events at the bar and around the city.”

Speaking of representing around the city, the Eagle will be part of the gay landscape in Atlanta for years to come, Ramey says.

“I’m just so proud of our 28 years, and this is my messages to the community: As long as the people of Atlanta want the Eagle to be there, it’ll be there. I’m proud to be that person who gets to keep the Eagle name going for many, many years to come.”