Metro Weekly

Building a Bigger, Better Eagle

Ted Clements and Peter Lloyd are soaring high with construction underway for the new DC Eagle

DC Eagle  Photo by Todd Franson
DC Eagle – Photography by Todd Franson

Peter Lloyd has a long history with the DC Eagle, the first gay bar he “actively sought out.” In the “pre-AIDS” late-1970s, Lloyd was an anxious, impressionable teenager. For a Georgetown native raised in a family headed by a strict World War II-veteran father, going to the DC Eagle was far from a cakewalk — and not simply because it was a gay bar, and Lloyd underage. It was a gay bar in a bad part of town, at the time a sketchy stretch of 7th Street just south of Mt. Vernon Square in downtown D.C.

But the allure was too strong — and worth the risk, especially considering that back then the DC Eagle was a one-stop shop: Once inside, you could drink while conversing, cruising or playing pool with like-minded people in leather gear. Don’t have gear? Head up to the third floor to the leather goods shop, the original Leather Rack. Hungry? Load up on food from the restaurant on the second floor. In other words, Lloyd and his fellow pioneering leathermen could have their cake — and eat it too.

DC Eagle  Photo by Todd Franson
DC Eagle – Photography by Todd Franson

A quarter-century later, Lloyd, now 52, is angling to offer the same for the next generation and beyond. He’s one of those responsible for building the new DC Eagle complex, the fourth location in the storied club’s 43-year history. After rapid neighborhood redevelopment forced the bar to close earlier this year in a location on New York Avenue that had served as its home for almost 27 years, the DC Eagle will re-open next month in a mostly industrial area east of the Anacostia River, near the Minnesota Avenue Metro, one Orange Line stop beyond RFK Stadium’s Stadium-Armory. It will be the first DC Eagle location outside of D.C.’s Northwest quadrant.

And while it won’t be a cakewalk for most to get to 3701 Benning Rd. NE, the site will eventually offer the same kind of one-stop shop attractions that Lloyd had found when he was a young man. A three-story former warehouse, the new DC Eagle will feature a large central bar, side billiards area and outdoor patio, plus a separate cigar-smoking room and a small store. Above all this, on the third floor, will be a large stage, catwalk, dance floor and mezzanine overlooking the action. Above that — opening sometime next year — will be an expansive roof deck with a view to the U.S. Capitol. And on the first floor will be a restaurant serving hearty, healthy food.

Lloyd, along with his business partners Ted Clements and Don “Angus” Hughes, bought the property in late May after more than two years of searching the city high and low looking for a new roost. But the partners are only now going public with their plans for the space. Clements opted to wait until they had cleared most hurdles, including gaining neighborhood approval and obtaining appropriate licenses from the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

DC Eagle  Photo by Todd Franson
DC Eagle – Photography by Todd Franson

“I really did not want our ABRA stuff being tried in the press,” Clements says. “But all that’s done now, so now it’s just building out and going through, making sure everything’s up to code. And then we’ll be ready to open.” The DC Eagle will be open to the public in time for its 43rd anniversary, with festivities planned the week before Thanksgiving, including the annual Mr. DC Eagle contest. The restaurant — The Phoenix — won’t open for a fe months after that, hopefully in time for January’s Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend.

Both Clements and Lloyd acknowledge that setting up shop in a relatively unfamiliar location in an up-and-coming part of town is a gamble. But both are also optimistic about the space’s potential, and stand resolute in giving it their best shot. “I just didn’t want the Eagle to pass into legend,” Lloyd says. “Twenty years down the road, I didn’t want to look back and think, ‘Gee, I should have tried.’ Or hear talk about, ‘Remember the DC Eagle?’ … I really think it’s a great bar, and it has great potential, and I think there’s a need for it.”

“It’s going to take a while to establish our footprint here,” Clements concedes. “I’m aware of that, and I’m willing to give what it takes.”

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