Eagle owner says rezoning won’t force out bar

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imageA co-owner of the Eagle offers this simple note of caution to its patrons and supporters: An effort to rezone the property won’t impact the gay bar in the near future.

That reassurance comes from Eagle co-owner Richard Ramey (photo), who says he’s been fielding phone calls and emails from people concerned that an application to rezone the Ponce de Leon property that houses the gay bar and its neighbor means the Eagle is about to be booted from its longtime home.

“The rezoning is not going to affect the status of my lease or what is going on there now with the Eagle,” Ramey says. “Everyone is getting confused that it will be rezoned and we’ll have to move. That is not the case.”

The owner of the property, The Bootery Inc., wants to rezone the property from commercial service to mixed residential commercial. The Atlanta Zoning Review Board was scheduled to consider the request last Thursday, but deferred action until its August meeting, according to Robert Cain, an architect overseeing the rezoning request for the property owner.

imageCain says the rezoning would allow future changes to the property to make it more pedestrian friendly. But for now, the owner doesn’t have plans to redevelop the property.

“It offers help to neighborhoods in terms of preserving their neighborhoods,” Cain says. “It takes into account people who walk to restaurants and bars. It makes it more pedestrian friendly. It provides a little more flexibility for the owner.”

Ramey says he and co-owner Robert Kelley signed a five-year lease on the property shortly after the Atlanta Police Department’s controversial raid of the bar last September. The property has housed the Eagle since its inception about 25 years ago with the last nearly 15 years coming under Ramey and Kelley.

“The Eagle has never been anywhere but that location,” Ramey says.

If the property was sold and the new owners wanted to push the Eagle out, their lease requires a buyout and a notice of several months, he says.

“It will be rezoned for future use if someone wants to buy the property, but [the owner] doesn’t even have a buyer right now,” Ramey says.

When Ramey and Kelley bought the Eagle, the owners at the time were also working to sell the property and sold it before they sold the bar. When the property entered foreclosure under its previous owner last year, Ramey says they weren’t aware of what happened until The Bootery had already acquired it.

But Ramey says he’s not sure that given the chance, he and Kelley would have purchased the property anyway.

“It would take a lot of money and that corner is going to be redeveloped one day,” Ramey says.

Though the gay bar may not sit on the corner of Argonne and Ponce forever, he says, they are settled in for now.

“The Eagle is there, we are fine, we are not going anywhere and we are not moving because of any rezoning,” Ramey says.


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