“When I bought the bar years ago, I sat down with another business owner, and we talked about how the gay community was changing, especially with the leather scene,” says Ted Clements, co-owner of The DC Eagle. “The leather scene is not like it was here years ago. The puppies have become a big phenomenon. Then there’s the bears, also gear, and superheroes, and furries, and stuff like that. It’s just a whole different mindset these days, but we try to be inclusive, and provide a safe, sane, consensual place for people to come so everyone can have fun and be themselves.”
Since opening its new space on Benning Road NE in 2015, the DC Eagle has undergone renovations to create different spaces that cater to the growing subgroups. Besides traditional leather/kink, the Eagle has hosted the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Imperial Court of Washington, D.C., and has offered to host parties for local sports clubs, community organizations, and the underground hip-hop and techno scene.
“The building really dictates a lot of its own character,” says Clements. “We carved up a part of it for the cigar bar. We use that as a hardcore leather area, so the leathermen always feel they have a home. The Exile, on the third floor, is a large dance party [space]. We have a lot more lights now. We have a kick-ass stereo up there…. So we’re a lot more diversified, a lot more inclusive than we were in our last location.”
“It is a bit unique that we have the licenses to be open 24 hours on the weekends,” says the bar’s manager David Hanley. “That’s another thing that the underground music scene absolutely loves. Because some of the groups were operating in abandoned warehouses, and would get shut down by police because they didn’t have all the right permits in place. And they’ve absolutely embraced the fact that we have the licenses to go until 7 or 8 in the morning, like they like to do.”
With Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, the bar will return to its leather roots, hosting two cigar socials, a Leather Pride party, a Breeches and Leather Uniform party (known as BLUF), and two dance parties — SIR and Distrkt C, on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. Every hour, the bar will run a 30-passenger shuttle bus from the Hyatt Regency, which serves as the host hotel for MAL Weekend. The Eagle will also host Lucendia’s food truck, which serves barbecue and Southern comfort food, throughout the weekend, so revelers can grab a quick bite to eat in between sets.
Despite the overabundance of leather/kink you’ll see during MAL Weekend, the Eagle has benefitted from diversification, attracting crowds — including those that are predominantly straight — that previously would have avoided a gay leather/levi establishment.
“I think that one of the things that we struggled with internally in our own minds was that we had so much space,” says Hanley. “Although we have a large, prosperous leather community in D.C., at least from my perspective, it was unfair to ask essentially everyone to come out every night to support such a large venue.
“So we started diversifying our lineup, and we got into D.C.’s underground music scene, a little bit of the hip-hop scene, and really started reaching out into other avenues. Because in order to be really successful in the town, you really need to reach out so that everyone feels welcome.”
The DC Eagle is located at 3701 Benning Rd. NE. For more information, or a schedule of upcoming events, visit dceagle.com.
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