The world was recently fascinated by the hatching of baby bald eagles in Florida. The leather community and other interested individuals in the mid-Atlantic area are excited about the long-awaited rebirth of a different eagle—the Baltimore Eagle.
Since the iconic leather bar closed its doors in December 2012, its path to reopening has been characterized by major challenges, setbacks and ultimate victories.
The owners and the management team dealt with unforeseen problems with the building’s structure, plumbing and wiring soon after the property, located at 2022 N. Charles St., was purchased by local developers Charles Parrish and Ian Parrish for $300,000. This necessitated the virtual gutting of the original building.
There were other impediments including early opposition from local community associations, the refusal to approve the transfer of the original license by the city liquor board, construction and utility delays, and the usual red tape.
However, through the efforts of Charles King, Greg King, Robert Gasser and John Gasser—all partners in the business—as well as the Parrishes, the management team was able to allay the concerns of the community associations; the liquor license transfer subsequently purchased from former Club Hippo owner Chuck Bowers was approved by the liquor board; and the massive renovations, which continued while the earlier battles were being waged, are all but complete.
“In a city plagued by economic hardship and social injustice, we endeavored a highly technical and financially demanding reconstruction in order to welcome back friends of the Baltimore Eagle to their home away from home,” Ian Parrish told the Blade. “Our fight for equal treatment by the city liquor board strengthened my belief that equality isn’t just an LGBT issue; it’s a cause that affects every member of our community, and we’re honored and humbled by how our friends and neighbors came together to support us. We’ve come out on top, and our new opening shows that there’s no wrong in this town that our pride can’t cure.”
Accordingly, the Baltimore Eagle’s owners and managers can state at last that the bar is about to be open for business, though an exact date hasn’t been announced. The final inspection and permit issuance are scheduled to take place this week.
The management team, with its experience in the leather community, designed the concept for the Baltimore Eagle. From a physical standpoint, the differences between the original Eagle and the new iteration couldn’t be starker.
The previous Baltimore Eagle consisted of a gritty, long narrow space that, aside from a small leather store above a staircase in the rear, was confined to the ground floor. The extensive reconstruction of the building, which cost $1.7 million, has dramatically increased the area of the original footprint and added a full-use second floor. It will have a state-of-the-art air conditioning system among its myriad improvements.
From a thematic standpoint, the Baltimore Eagle retains and enhances its leather identity and vibe while adding features that will appeal to a broader community.
The popular outdoor courtyard that offered a respite from the often crowded and stuffy air inside the old bar will continue to be a facet of the new establishment. The courtyard with its own bar will have many improvements according to management and is expected to be ready for use this spring.
Inside the front entrance on heavily travelled Charles Street—a main artery that runs north though the city—sits the Sports Bar with several flat screen TVs. There are also open spaces for casual dining with “gastro-pub” inspired lunch and dinner menus and custom catering by European-trained Master Chef Ed Scholly with his 26 years of culinary experience. A DJ booth from which an eclectic mix of music will be played is situated in that space.
Outside the Sports Bar is a sitting area and lounge. Along the wall there is a display case containing a variety of leather-related memorabilia and artifacts. That area also includes a pansexual restroom.
Additionally, on the street level is an exclusive Code Bar whereby only those in leather or fetish gear will be admitted. This area, with a garage-themed décor, has its own DJ set-up.
“For those who are concerned about having a dark cruise bar, we will encompass that,” explains Charles King, the general manager.
A package goods store is located on the ground level where the entrance to the original Eagle stood.
In a dramatic departure from the old Eagle there is a Moulin Rouge-inspired cabaret/nightclub space on the upper floor called Nest. This includes a stage with professional digital video projection and sound that can be used for entertainment, film festivals and special events.
Management promises regular dance parties bringing the Montreal and European dance music scene to Nest and perhaps the occasional Hippo Retro Dance Party. It is also suitable for weddings, banquets and other celebrations.
Nest has a bar of its own as well as a patio. On this level, another set of restrooms is located, but they are separated by gender. In addition, there is a leather and fetish store as well as an erotic art gallery.
The successful end to this arduous journey is not lost on partner John Gasser, who oversees the package goods store operations as well as administration.
“With gay bars shutting their doors here and across the country, people told us we were crazy to reopen one, hence the name of our corporation, 4 Crazy Guys. Really!” Gasser told the Blade.
“What has given us the most confidence in this project and Baltimore in particular has been the incredible community support and the many volunteers who have generously given freely of their time and various areas of expertise — far too many to start telling you about them all. It is they who have helped us make it possible for the Baltimore Eagle to soar again and even higher. I am inspired, personally deeply grateful, and humbled.”