Mid-Atlantic Leather, a leather conference and competition held annually in Washington, D.C., has served as the unofficial kickoff to the leather contest circuit for decades. The event, which has reportedly boasted over 3,000 attendees in recent years and was steadily growing, canceled it's 2021 iteration as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. But this week the Centaur Motorcycle Club, which organizes MAL, announced that the 2022 iteration would go on. The decision has led to confusion and controversy while some longtime marquee partners have canceled their participation.
"The members of Centaur MC voted to hold the 2022 Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, January 14-17, 2022," they wrote to Twitter on Sunday following a monthly meeting of the club. "It is your personal choice whether to attend."
What exactly was canceled?
MAL 2022 was slated to be a massive return, not only as a result of the anticipation — most large scale leather competitions had been skipped in 2021 and MAL would mark their return — but also in terms of the plans. For the first time, the Centaur MC had partnered with other party producers under the moniker of Kinetic to put on a series of official parties including a kick off and tea dance featuring talent like star adult performer Boomer Banks.
“We have secured the city’s best and most colossal venues for KINETIC: MAL Weekend,” Jesus Quispe, one of the organizers, said in an announcement with event names like Uncut, Kink and Tea Bag. Those events were canceled late this week.
"KINETIC has been evaluating our ability to ensure the health and safety of the community at the official parties for the upcoming MId-Atlantic Leather 2022 weekend," they wrote. "After consulting with our partners, D.C. government officials, and members of the community, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our parties and provide refunds to individual and weekend dance pass ticket holders for 2022."
Longtime supporters of the event also announced they would not be a part of MAL as cases of the ongoing global pandemic were again on the rise due to the Omicron variant and D.C. began to impose more restrictions.
"After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to not attend MAL as a vendor this year," Mr S Leather, one of the largest vendors in the MAL Vendor Market posted to Instagram in December. Fort Troff, another big name within the fetish community, followed shortly thereafter.
"We are BUMMED, but the safety of our grunts is our top priority," they wrote to Instagram. "For this reason, we have canceled our plans to have our booth at MAL." Rough Trade Gear and Breedwell Gear have followed suit.
Others like DC Leather Boys and Mister International Rubber canceled meet-ups slated for the event. The Impact dance party, a popular party held at the venue was also canceled as organizers "wouldn't want to jeopardize the health and safety of our guests and more importantly each other."
Are people getting refunds?
The Centaur MC has been roundly criticized for not only their decision to move forward, but the way things have been handled. In the face of that criticism, policies have changed allowing those who decided not to attend as a result of the pandemic to get full refunds on their hotel — if they were staying at the Hyatt Regency — and run packages. KINETIC is also issuing full refunds for their events.
What should attendees of MAL 2022 actually expect?
For those who do attend MAL, the event will certainly look different. The lobby of the Hyatt typically becomes DC's largest leather bar for the duration of the weekend. A makeshift bar is set up, and the hotel boasts a massive coat and clothes check to allow attendees to mill about and commune with one another. This year, while there will be drinks, there will be designated areas to eat and drink. Masks must be worn at all times except for when actively consuming food and beverages in these areas — pup hoods are not considered masks.
There have been no announcements on whether there will be reduced capacity limits in the lobby but this is not expected.
All attendees must be vaccinated.
Over the past three years, the longtime practice of milling the hotel halls has been scaled back as policies around who is allowed into the elevators have been more restrictive. This year, as in the past, entrance to the hotel is restricted to those intending to attend MAL. Entrance to the lobby will be based on capacity and priority will be given to those staying in the hotel as well as complete run-pass holders. Walk-in guests will be allowed in but will have less priority.
During peak "social hours," access to the hotel will be restricted to those staying in the hotel and one guest as in years prior.
What events will be happening?
Formal events like Leather Cocktails as well as the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather contest will still occur. Bootcamp will still serve as the kick off dance on Thursday with DJ Onyx and DJ J Warren. Unofficial events like the Distrkt C party will also go on. The Reaction dance party will still close the weekend.