The operators of Charles North’s Baltimore Eagle, a landmark gay bar that reopened in January 2017 after being shuttered for almost five years, have closed their business, citing an ongoing feud with the owner that they said pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy.
“We just can’t fight the fight anymore,” said Charles “Chuck” King, the bar’s general manager and one of the partners in 4 Crazy Guys, LLC, which had been operating the Baltimore Eagle for the past year and a half. “We finally reached our tipping point… We’re in debt to our attorney for 20 grand. We don’t have any money to spend.”
Owner Ian Parrish, who purchased the Eagle with his father, Charles, in 2012, said he was caught unawares by the decision to close the business.
“It’s such a slap in the face,” he said. “The fact that they left the community so suddenly says more about them than I ever could.”
Parrish and his father spent about $1.5 million renovating the building, he said, and are committed to maintaining the bar, which first opened in 1991.
“The Baltimore Eagle is a landmark leather bar in this community, and we’re going to do everything we can to reopen,” Parrish said. “The people are the best part of the Baltimore Eagle. We’re not going to let it sit.”
King, of 4 Crazy Guys, said he and his partners spent about $600,000 outfitting the building. That outlay, in addition to rent and fees they owe to an attorney representing them in the dispute, pretty much tapped them out, King said.
“We are so in the hole in legal fees now, we didn’t have enough money to cut paychecks and make payroll,” he said. The bar had an “unannounced closing party” Wednesday night, he said.
In a lengthy online post, 4 Crazy Guys laid out their differences with the Parrishes, from whom they leased the building and licensed the bar’s name.
They claimed Ian Parrish continuously fought them over marketing, once insisting that a woman’s picture not appear on the website, another time saying that “while it is OK for a men’s event to be sexually suggestive, a women’s event should be kept benign.” He also objected to the use of certain models, according to the post, “saying they were not attractive because of their body type.”
King said the Eagle’s marketing was calculated to be inclusive. “We wanted to show real people,” he said. “We know what we are doing, and we know how to target the audience we are looking for.”
For his part, Parrish said that he was not attempting to dictate overall marketing strategy, but rather ensure that advertising and promotion was not in bad taste.
“We have the right to give them input, and also tell them when we feel they are crossing lines,” he said. “I own the trademark for the Baltimore Eagle, and it is my responsibility to ensure the integrity of our trademark… If they want that level of control over the trademark, then they should buy it.”
Parrish eventually removed 4 Crazy Guys’ access to the Baltimore Eagle Facebook page and website in violation of their licensing agreement, the partners said, a charge Parrish denies.
The partners also said that John Yelcick, a lender and (under his married name of John Gasser) one of the original 4 Crazy Guys, has “accelerated the terms of his payoff,” in violation of the loan agreement. That further heightened their financial woes, King said.
Yelcick, however, denied he tried to change the terms of the loan or speed up the payment schedule. He says he was simply looking for assurances “that they are actually able to pay that loan back,” he said.
Like Parrish, Yelcick said he sees a bright future for the Eagle once the current fracas is settled.
“The Baltimore Eagle can be a vibrant thing for the entire Baltimore community,” Yekcick said, “not just the gay community.”