Eagle celebrates last call as its home threatened with demolition

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The Atlanta Eagle danced all weekend with those who brung them. The bar celebrated more than three decades at its historic Ponce de Leon Avenue home before shutting its doors and hopefully reopening in a new location next year.

The Eagle’s closure on Saturday came just three days after the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation included its building at 306 Ponce de Leon – and the neighboring Kodak Building – among its 10 “Places in Peril” list for 2021.

Thanks for all of that, 2020.

Eagle owner Richard Ramey announced in October that he was closing the iconic leather bar and scouting for new locations for a mid-2021 reopening. For its final weekend, the bar hosted limited capacity parties so patrons could make the rounds one last time, toast the bar and even buy bricks from the building constructed in the late 1890s.

The Eagle’s citing as a “place in peril” won’t impact its closing, a spokesperson for the bar said.

“The Atlanta Eagle is a special place for the LGBTQ community and we are ecstatic that it has been recognized by such an impactful organization at a state-wide level,” Dan Grossman, a spokesperson for the bar, said in a press release.

“The announcement that the Atlanta Eagle’s building is one of Georgia’s top ten endangered historic sites has had no impact on the business plans of the Atlanta Eagle,” he added.

Grossman helped lead a federal lawsuit against the City of Atlanta after police raided the bar in 2009. Officers arrested eight people and touched off a legal and political storm that lasted years and cost the city nearly $2.7 million in settlements and investigations. The lawsuit also resulted in significant reforms to the Atlanta Police Department.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation said its “Places in Peril” list calls attention to historic properties that are threatened by demolition, neglect and inappropriate development. The Eagle and Kodak buildings face “a direct threat of demolition,” according to the organization.

Originally constructed as expansive private residences in 1898 and 1905 respectively, the Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings reflect over a century of urban evolution and social history in the city of Atlanta. The Atlanta Eagle Building – altered for commercial use in 1949 – eventually became a place of prominence in the LGBTQ community, significant as a site for public social interaction. The Kodak Building was originally constructed as an Italian Renaissance house but underwent a commercial alteration in the 1940s with the opening of Star Photo.

Currently, the structures suffer from lack of maintenance and a direct threat of demolition. The Atlanta Eagle has recently announced plans to close due to financial hardship brought on by the pandemic. Despite both buildings being contributing properties in the Midtown National Register Historic District, the properties are highly susceptible to demolition without the addition of local preservation protections.

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 shut the Eagle down.

“I thought we could operate through the summer. But I kept trying to figure out how we were going to survive the winter. And that’s when I decided maybe this was the time for us to throw in the towel for a while and give everybody a break,” Ramey said at the time.

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