As the Atlanta Eagle enters its 26th year, a number of changes are coming to the establishment. Get ready for a flurry of new activity.
With the lawsuits filed by the Eagle and several of its patrons in relation to the Atlanta Police Department’s 2009 raid now in the proverbial rearview mirror for the establishment, owner Robby Kelley feels that it’s time for the Eagle to become more active in the community again.
“I’m finally getting back in the habit of doing what we used to do. A lot of people don’t remember, because we haven’t done it in a while, but we planned out different events. Every weekend, Friday or Saturday, there will be a different event inside the bar, because it’s one of the things people ask for. I kind of got personally…lazy, and I don’t mind admitting that,” says Kelley.
“We’ll be doing different events, from Cubcake parties, which are for cubs and otters, to Powerhouse for muscle bears, Tidal Wave parties for the bears, Fire Station parties. Stuff like that, that we’ve gotten out of the habit of doing. After everything the bar had been through, it’s me finally getting out of a funk and getting back to running a bar again.”
In terms of programming, two big changes have already started. The first, and probably more surprising, change is the inclusion of a new drag show, Manic Mondays, a drag show starring Al’Meria RichMan. As the name indicates, the show occurs Monday nights, so it won’t effect the bar’s dance floor or organization nights on weekends.
“It’s on a Monday night, so it doesn’t interfere with the clientele on Friday and Saturday,” says Kelley. “I don’t have to hear them say, ‘Oh, it’s a leather bar, I don’t want drag.’ Which is funny, because they all go out to drag shows on the weekends before they come here.”
As with many of the events the Eagle puts on, the reason for this new drag show comes down to one idea: charity. In this case, the beneficiary is Jerusalem House.
“Jerusalem House has been hurting—they’ve had most of their funding yanked through federal cuts. It’s a place Richard and I used to volunteer for, back before we bought a bar, so it’s high on our priority list to make sure they’re taken care of, so this gives us a chance to do something to hopefully get some money in the door so they don’t have to close,” says Kelley.
Kelley expects that the show will rotate its beneficiaries, with Jerusalem House rotating with Lost-n-Found on a monthly basis.
Also changing for the Eagle: its DJ lineup. DJ Lydia Prim joined the Eagle’s DJ rotation in April with weekly spots on Wednesday and Friday nights.
“We’re looking forward to [her presence],” says Kelley. “She used to play here back before Richard and I bought the bar, so she’s one of many DJs to flow in and out of the Atlanta Eagle. It’s nice to have her back here as part of the family. She’ll be a lot of fun. She’s looking forward to it a lot.”
Perhaps the biggest change, though, has more to do with habits than events. Beginning May 1, smoking at the Eagle becomes limited to the patio area only. This comes after an informal survey Kelley conducted over Facebook in late March, questioning bar patrons about their thoughts on the Eagle potentially going smoke-free.
“We started getting questions about going non-smoking ever since the Cockpit opened. It’s one of those things I never wanted to deal with, because I feel like I’m stepping on individuals’ rights. But as the other bars started going non-smoking, I decided to do the Facebook thing. With that, we had over 500 responses, with only 18 wanting smoking in the bar, so Richard and I sat down and decided smoking would be limited to just the patio starting May 1. It will be warm enough for nobody to freeze to death, and people can get used to the idea of smoking outside before it gets cold.”
Smokers don’t have to worry about the uncovered patio area for long, according to Kelley: “We’re going to cover the upper deck so that, when it does rain, they’ll have a place to go outside and smoke without getting soaked.”
The response so far has been largely positive—“shockingly, overwhelmingly positive,” according to Kelley—but there are pockets of resistance to this change.
“We’re going to have a few people who have already said that they’re going to push their luck and try to smoke inside the bar anyway, and to me, that’s kind of stupid. I shouldn’t have to act like a parent, patrol the bar and say ‘Hey, you can’t smoke inside.’ They should have enough sense to read the signs when they come in,” Kelley acknowledges.
“But for the most part, my customers are grown-ups. Most of my customers actually listen to me, and we won’t have issues with smoking or anything else they’re not supposed to do in the bar. So I’m not expecting it to be a big deal.”
The Atlanta Eagle celebrates its 26th anniversary April 12–14 in conjunction with Leather Pride. For more on the lineup, visit atlantaleatherpride.com, or read next week’s issue of David Atlanta.