Bellying up to the bar: Leatherman Payne and partner dive into club ownership with Eagle

MEN OF DENIM | Ostmeyer, Payne, Johnson, Frazier and Roy now all own the Dallas Eagle.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Until about a month ago, everything Jeffrey Payne knew about a bar was how to order a Sprite in one (Payne doesn’t drink). Maybe how to cruise a guy during happy hour. That was it.

That’s changing. Fast.

At the end of January, Payne and his partner David Roy became shareholders in the Dallas Eagle.

“David and I have been speaking about it for a few years. We toyed with starting our own bar, had looked at other bars that had come up for sale in the meantime but never found what we were looking for,” Payne says.

Then last year Mark Frazier, one of the owners of the Eagle, approached them. “He heard we were looking,” Payne says, and asked if they would be interested in investing. Things progressed fairly quickly from there.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Payne says. ”Working with Mark and Cully Johnson and Jerry Ostmeyer, who are the other owners, we all bring something different to the table. We’re all active. There’s no silent partner, no one standing on the sidelines. Lot of changes have either happened or are about to happen. The DJ booth is now against the side; new countertops are being put in; and we have an updated draft [beer] system.”

Payne’s history with the Eagle is notable. He was named Mr. Dallas Eagle in 2008 — the first step on his way to Mr. Texas Leather and finally International Mr. Leather, a title he held from May 2009 to 2010 and for which he received widespread acclaim throughout the community for his leadership.

“Having been around the world like I have been, getting to know the hugely supportive gay community — not just the leather community — I wanted to be more involved,” he says. “The Eagle was just the right thing we were looking for. It’s a Levi/leather bar, but it doesn’t stop there: The bears, the court, the drag queens, softball teams, the bowling league — it’s not limited to just one sector of the community. It’s a wide array of people. Even straight people who are involved in the gay community hold activities there.”

“Bar owner” joins Payne’s other job titles of late, which also include running a court reporting service and serving on his non-profit Sharon St. Cyr Foundation, which raises money for hearing aids and sign interpretation for the deaf community. Payne is going deaf, although it has not progressed as fast as his doctors had predicted.

“It has gradually gotten worse but I’ll hang on to every day I can,” he says. ”Understanding is escaping more and more. David said something to me this morning and what I heard and what he said were on two different planes. Mine was much funnier.”

His hearing impairment also figures into his work at the Eagle — in some not-to-predictable ways.

“Sunday was the first time I worked behind the bar,” he says. “When I’m at the Eagle I don’t wear my hearing aids so people were placing orders and I didn’t hear them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright