INDIANAPOLIS — After being on the market for a while and month of rumors, the Indianapolis leather community’s fears were confirmed on Saturday, Sept. 3, when the 501 Eagle’s owners said they would be closing for good on Oct. 15.
501 Eagle owner Tom Vester made the announcement on the bar’s Facebook page:
It’s time for my wife, Margie, and I to retire. The 501 Eagle (Tavern) will close forever Oct 15, 2016. Until then we will be open 7 days a week doing blue lite specials on all drinks. It’s been a great 22 year run. Thanks for all your business. Tom n Margie
The bar was Indianapolis’ only full leather bar and comes just weeks after the Barracks closed in Louisville.
Eric Masters, the current Mr. 501 Eagle, released a statement on his Facebook page on Sunday morning saying while the community would mourn the closing, it should also celebrate the legacy. He also announced plans to organize town halls for the local leather community.
In the days and months to come, I will begin holding town hall style meetings to discuss the future of our leather community. All will be invited to come and offer their feedback as we carve out a future for ourselves in the great state of Indiana. The closing of the 501 Eagle is a tragedy, as was the closing of Talbott Street, however we will endeavor to pull together as a community! Through the bumps in life we become stronger. Though this closing is but a bump in the road, it is not one that will keep us away from our passions! We as a family MUST come together to forge a path into the future.
With the 501’s closing and the loss of the Barracks, most of Indiana will no longer have easy access to a leather bar. The closest will be in Chicago with Detroit and Columbus, Ohio even further away.
“Many of us knew for a while now that our Eagle was going to be closing. We’ve carried that sadness and unease for a while,” local community member Tracy Fullenkamp said. “The building has been on the market for a long time. The latest rumors were that the business would shut it’s doors in early 2017.” The bar, near the popular Mass Ave and Chatham Arch neighborhoods had been changing. Tracy said that other nearby buildings had already been razed or converted to new homes and businesses.
A sizable part of the community was online waiting for International LeatherSir/boy results when the news broke. Reaction was swift with a lot of people expressing sadness at the loss of Indianapolis institution.
“For me it’s a devastating thing because my journey in the community only began a year ago this month,” BoyPup Kyo told the Den. “It’s just devastating because to me it was the start of something for me that has started a year’s worth of a journey that I’m glad I’ve taken.”
“I know when I walked through the door of our Eagle whether day or night, I felt at home,” Tracy said. “It’s like taking off a layer of clothing the way I was able to shed all of my guardedness when I walked in to socialize or celebrate or remember or support.”
The bar is well-known in the greater region as well. “I have fond memories of the 501,” Ron Clemons, producer of the Tri-State Leather Contest in Cincinnati. “I had a group of friends that would drive to Indy to go to Our Place, now Greg’s and we would make the 501 our last stop before heading home or to Club Indy. That bar has gone through many changes over the years but it was always the place to go whenever in Indy.”
Luis Tipantasig of Chicago remembered three visits in particular: the memorial service for Sir Greg, the marriage of his IML brother Milo where he also met his current partner, and “the night I walked into the 501 and felt like I was at home. I received hug after hug and felt like I belonged there, I was part of the Indianapolis community.”
“It will be missed,” Tracy said. “The heartbreak over this is deep and tangible. It is felt far and wide. We’ve got a month more to celebrate that space.”
The bar will be selling all its beer and liquor at cost plus tax and events that are planned for before Oct. 15 are still on.