In the late 1960’s, a group of guys put together dinners for local motorcyclists and leathermen. These dinners took place at a bar on 9th Street in NW called Louis’. Oddly enough, it was located right across the street from FBI headquarters, and these were the days of J. Edgar Hoover. The bar was renamed Louis’ Spartan Lounge, after the Spartan MC was formed on April 3, 1968. On September 4, 1968, Don Bruce became, what we now refer to as, our first “Baby Spartan.” These dates and events are important to this story, because they would give birth to the legendary DC Eagle.
Eventually, Don Bruce, became one of the early Spartan MC Presidents. He then decided that our crowd should have a home of our own. Don and his brother Eddie pooled their money to open the first of three buildings on 9th Street. The night before the Eagle was to open, Don invited the Spartans to take part in a ceremony. They placed nails into a sculpture of an eagle. This sculpture hung on the wall of that bar until the building was claimed by eminent domain to make way for what was then the “new” DC Convention Center. The Eagle gave flight to a number of other businesses, including the Leather Rack and the Eagle in Exile.
There are many traditions that evolved from the brotherhood of the Spartan MC and the Eagle in the early years.
- The Hanging of the Club Colors.
- The Spartan MC Colors were the first club colors to ever hang on the walls of the Eagle and subsequently other bars adopted this tradition.
- Club Mugs.
- The Spartan MC was the first club to have mugs in the Eagle. Don wanted the club members to feel at home and special. Don insisted that any club member who came to the bar received special treatment.
- Helmet Drinks.
- As a thank you to the bikers that patronized the Eagle, the first drink is always on the house.
- Blackout Nights.
- One night while the bar was open, there was a power outage and rather than close, candles were placed t the bar. Thus began the tradition of a “Blackout Night.”
- Thanksgiving Dinner.
- Don was very aware of the numbers of men that had nowhere to go on Thanksgiving Day. He began a tradition of preparing a complete holiday feast with all the trimmings that was available to all.
- Christmas Carols.
- Every Christmas Day, those that were in town would gather at the Eagle and sing carols with friends, instead of being alone.
- Mr. DC Eagle Contest.
- The idea of selecting a man who best represented the traditions and mystique of the bar was a novel one. The Mr. DC Eagle Contest is the longest running leather title contest in the entire country and longest-running qualifying contest to International Mr. Leather.
- Eagle is always Open.
- The Eagle was open 365 days a year without fail. God help the manager who did not have that door open at noon sharp.
Time Moved On
The Eagle was forced from its nest on 9th Street, to make way for a new convention space. The bar closed at the regular hour on moving night and reopened the next day at noon in a brand new location. Many of the club members were drafted into the moving party to make sure everything would be ready. The Eagle was not just the child of Don and Eddie. Dick McHugh, Don’s partner in life, was there every step of the way. Dick was the Mr. Fix-It of the DC Eagle. He was the one that kept antiquated coolers, ice machines, air conditioning and heaters operating. Dick was the quiet force behind the scenes during the early days. But if you knew Dick, you could see his influence throughout the place. The time came again when the DC Eagle would be forced from its nest, to make way for a new technology center on 7th Street. Don and Eddie retired to Florida soon after the move. Dick stayed in town and opened Dick’s Place, on New York Avenue, in the old Manhattan Transfer Company building. Dick’s Place, became the DC Eagle on 639 New York Ave. NW.
Ownership eventually changed again. The DC Eagle went strong for many years on New York Ave. However, development once again would push the DC Eagle from its address. In 2014, the DC Eagle closed up operations on New York Ave. They temporarily functioned a few doors down as a “pop-up” bar, but eventually, even that space gave into the same development.
Under the ownership of Ted Clements and Peter Lloyd, the DC Eagle found a new home in the northeast area of Washington, DC. A building at 3701 Benning Road NE that was once a meat packing plant, and then a church, became the new home of the DC Eagle. Starting in 2015, the DC Eagle was operational in this space and continued to develop the 3-story building to serve people and clubs in the DC area. In March 2020, the bar closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They filed for bankruptcy and the building has since been demolished.