ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta has begun the process of designating a gay bar as a historic landmark, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says.

That would make the Atlanta Eagle the first recognized and protected LGBTQ landmark in the Deep South, local historians with Historic Atlanta told WXIA-TV.

The bar has been an integral part of Atlanta’s cultural and social landscape for three decades and helped bring about policy changes and cultural improvements between the LGBTQ community and city of Atlanta, Bottoms said in her announcement Thursday.

“The Atlanta Eagle has a rich history and is a beloved place for so many people in Atlanta and across the world,” she said. ”The bar is also one of the Southeast’s most famous LGBTQ social establishments and has hosted legendary drag performers like Ru Paul and Lady Bunny that promote LGBTQ equality and HIV/AIDS education."

The bar has been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The landmark designation will help it stay in its current building rather than move once it can reopen, WXIA reported.

“Many have called the Atlanta Eagle home over the last three decades,” owner Richard Ramey said in the city's announcement. “I am grateful to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City of Atlanta for ensuring that many more can call it home in the years to come.”

Bottoms said the Department of City Planning’s Historic Preservation Studio and the Urban Design Commission are beginning the designation of the building as a landmark. Historic landmark status prevents anyone from demolishing or changing the outside of the building without the commission’s OK.

“The Atlanta Eagle is significant for its long-time association to the LGBTQ community and as an excellent example of a historic home altered for commercial use during the 20th century,” according to Historic Atlanta. It notes that staff and patrons sued the city shortly after a police raid in 2009. Six officers were fired.