The battle is on to save the Atlanta Eagle

The Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings
The Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings (Photo: Victoria Lemos)

A question mark hangs over the future of the long-running Atlanta Eagle.

The popular bar has been a Midtown fixture at 306 Ponce De Leon Avenue for the past 33 years.

However, in October, owner Richard Ramey announced via a Facebook video that the bar would be closing in mid-November at its current home. Restricted trading during the pandemic had made it impossible to continue. However, Ramey said he hoped to find a home for the venue and reopen “when the pandemic is over.” He said he hoped this might be in June 2021.

Related: The iconic venues that won’t be returning after COVID-19

“We are not going out of business,” Ramey said. “We are not closing permanently. We are going to come back bigger, better, stronger than ever. It’s been a very emotional year. I am just beyond words what this year has done to so many of us.”

The bar duly had a closing party on November, 15.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Atlanta Eagle (@atlantaeagle)

At around the same time, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation announced its ten locations on its annual ‘Places in Peril’ list. These are sites of historical importance facing an uncertain future. Alongside the likes of Atlanta’s Ashby Theatre and the Old Monticello United Methodist Church in Monticello was the Atlanta Eagle and neighboring Kodak Buildings.

Related: Gay Atlanta

The Trust says of the building: “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.

“Once a prosperous residential corridor, Ponce de Leon Avenue shifted to prime commercial real estate with the growing prominence of the automobile. 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.”

It warns both the Eagle and neighboring Kodak Building are, “highly susceptible to demolition without the addition of local preservation protections.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Atlanta Eagle (@atlantaeagle)

The Atlanta Eagle responded with a press statement, indicating that its time at 306 Ponce De Leon Avenue may not be over just yet.

“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.

“At this time, 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, which has temporarily closed our doors as of November 15th due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis threatening the safety of our customers and impacting our sales.

“Though we have mentioned the possibility of opening our doors at a new location, nothing could fully replicate the history and spirit of 306 Ponce De Leon Ave.”

Related: Gay bars and clubs in Atlanta

It goes on to mention RuPaul making some of his earliest drag appearances at the bar in 1985. It was also the site of an infamous police raid in 2009 when a SWAT-type team of officers swooped upon the bar and forced patrons to lie on the floor. Not a single person was arrested for any offense. When it later emerged that the police had no warrant for the action, six officers lost their job.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Atlanta Eagle (@atlantaeagle)

“We can take neither the Eagle’s historic value nor what it represents to the LGBTQ community away to a new location,” said the statement. “With a potential vaccine around the corner, we are hopeful that at the end of our hiatus, the property’s owner will work with us to remain in operation and restore our historic home at 306 Ponce De Leon Avenue.”

The back entrance to the Atlanta Eagle
The back entrance to the Atlanta Eagle (Photo: Charlie Paine)