Iconic leather bar the Baltimore Eagle has closed amid alleged business disputes

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Photo by Brandon Weigel

Baltimore Eagle, the storied leather bar that got a second life in 2017 after an extensive renovation, ceased operations last night, according to a post on the club’s website.

The post alleges a series of business and legal disputes led to the closing. The managers, doing business as 4 Crazy Guys, LLC, leased the building and Baltimore Eagle name from the Parrish family, the note says. Management alleges in the note the owners “have meddled in the operation of the business in countless ways, each of which we believe demonstrated their lack of connection and understanding of our community and our market,” likening it to the way a brand owner runs a franchise.

Among the alleged incidents: Ian Parrish was fine with men’s events being “sexually suggestive” but pushed for women’s events to be more “benign”; objected to some models he deemed “not attractive because of their body type” appearing in promotion materials; sought access to security camera footage; tried to require that staff wear uniforms; and blocked management from accessing the Eagle’s Facebook page and website “in protest over marketing that he did not like.”

According to the note, they believe the Parrishes are attempting to “void the lease and licensing agreements” to cease the group’s assets. 4 Crazy Guys says they put $600,000 of their own money into improving the building before it opened, including the installation of new fixtures and equipment.

The note also takes aim at one of the management group’s lenders, John Yelcick.

“The lender has arbitrarily decided to accelerate the terms of his payoff despite the fact there is absolutely no allowance for this in the legal documents governing his loan to the company,” the note alleges.

Yelcick is suing 4 Crazy Guys, LLC, for an undisclosed amount, according to court records.

The group also pointed to 2017 comments by Yelcick that “caused our business to be labeled as transphobic, racist, misogynistic, and bigoted.” According to a City Paper article from last year, messages from Yelcick, in which he referred to sex workers in the neighborhood as “tranny prostitutes,” created an uproar in the neighborhood and the LGBTQ community.

Though the operators of the Eagle tried to distance themselves from those remarks, Ava Pipitone, of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance, told the paper at the time: “They’re literally coming in as like ambassadors of white settler colonialism to displace the neighborhood. They are very much a guilty party until they can prove otherwise.”

In the note, 4 Crazy Guys writes, “We worked very hard to correct that misconception, but as far as we can tell he continues to stand behind his comments.”

With those two conflicts, the group decided to close, the note says.

“So, in the face of mounting legal expenses and having had this project turned from a dream to a nightmare by outside forces, we must now move on and hope that the communities and people we have come to love so much will find a new place that feels like home.”

In an interview Friday, Parrish denied 4 Crazy Guys’ list of allegations posted online, and defended his family’s investment into the property and business.

He said he and his father, co-owner Charles Parrish, arrived at the bar Wednesday night to find a “caravan of cars parked in the alley” and people running out of the bar with “armfuls” of liquor, memorabilia and other equipment. Inside, bottles of liquor had been stolen or poured down the drain and smashed.

The Parrishes allowed a reporter inside the building on Thursday to survey the bar.

Emptied bottles inside the Baltimore Eagle. Photo by Brandon Weigel.

They also found a letter from management informing them of their intention to break the lease.

“We put a lot into this,” Ian Parrish said. “This is bigger than the Parrish family, and it’s bigger than a real estate development project. This is part of a movement, it’s part of a legacy, and it belongs to the community.”

For one, he said, the owners never blocked 4 Crazy Guys out of the website and Facebook page, but rather took an advertisement for a specific event around Easter–a “sexy Jesus lookalike” contest.

Tyler Zeck-McFall, a bar back who did “odd jobs” around the bar for more than a year, told Baltimore Fishbowl “the Parrishes, I believe, felt that that sort of ideal was offensive, and that they did not wish for us to be putting out something like that. He said that they then seized and “stripped our website down to the bare minimum, which was just our hours of operation.”

Parrish said that was untrue, however–“our tenants have always had control over the website and their advertising”–and that they took down the ads, which he described as “pictures of a person dressed like Jesus exposing his anus,” because they received complaints and found the images to be religiously intolerant.

On the accusation about the uniforms, Parrish also said they never sought to force staff to wear them, but wanted to require that employees wear attire covering parts of their bodies with exposed hair, since they were working around food.

And on the issue of cameras, he said they discovered interior security cameras, placed there in part to monitor registers, had been unplugged: “This isn’t about voyeurism at all, and I resent that it was spun that way by our tenants.”

Yelcick, for his part, told The Sun he never sought to speed up the loan repayment process, but wanted to confirm “that they are actually able to pay the loan back.”

Opened in 1991, the first iteration of the Eagle served as a “‘home away from home’ for the leather community,” according to a history on the bar’s website, and became a popular drinkery for the city’s LGBTQ community. After the Eagle was shut down in 2012, a new partnership, comprised of father-son owners Charles and Ian Parrish of Investors United and operators Charles and Greg King and John and Robert Gasser, moved to revamp the storied institution in 2015.

Once a liquor license was approved in September 2016 following a series of hurdles and setbacks, the partners put the finishing touches on renovations that included an entirely new facade, a new sports bar with a DJ booth and an expanded shop for fetish gear, among other improvements.

Wesley Case of The Sun wrote the new Eagle was “thriving on good energy while offering options to suit different moods.” In her column Field Tripping, Kate Drabinski wrote in City Paper the revived institution is “a completely new gay bar, one that recognizes its core constituency while also attending to the realities of today’s market.”

On social media, many were saddened to hear the Baltimore Eagle had closed and taken back by some of the allegations in the farewell note.

Parrish said they plan to bring the Baltimore Eagle back, which could happen “as early as next week,” that it will be “better than before, and I’m gonna find people who are loyal to the community to run it.”

Zeck-McFall said if it does reopen, “the people who will be running it, unless they hear from the Eagle community, are not the people who have the best interest of the LGBT community in their heart.”

Parrish said it’s the bar’s patrons who are motivating him to resurrect it. “This isn’t about the bar and it’s not about the building, even. For me the best parts of the Eagle are the people, and they’ve been left.”

This story has been updated.



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