A Minneapolis bar shut down after performers canceled, customers vowed to boycott it and employees were repulsed to learn the owner donated $500 to former KKK leader David Duke's 2016 Senate campaign.
Caught between those who were outraged over the donation and white supremacists who thought they could claim the bar as their own were more than a dozen employees who became collateral damage in the fallout.
Former employees, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Friday that Club Jäger was closed and the 17 employees at the North Loop bar were out of jobs. Employees were incensed when they learned about the owner's donation to Duke, and the decision to close the business was made by those who ran it, not the owner, they said.
Club Jäger's owner, Julius DeRoma, couldn't be reached for comment on Friday. The backlash erupted this week after City Pages published a story about DeRoma's political donation to Duke's failed bid for the U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana.
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Soon after, DJ Jake Rudh announced on Facebook that he would no longer host Transmission, his long-standing weekly dance night, at Club Jäger, saying he didn't want to be in a "venue where the owner supports the likes of David Duke and his messages of hate."
The 90s Preservation Society followed with their own Facebook post to say they were canceling their standing Thursday gig at the bar for the same reason.
Rob Callahan, a Twin Cities writer who has hosted a trivia night at Club Jäger since 2008, said he was furious when he learned about DeRoma's link to Duke and canceled his Tuesday trivia night.
A few employees immediately walked off the job when they learned about DeRoma's donation. Others stayed because they had families to feed, Callahan said.
As news circulated on Tuesday and social media erupted, employee inboxes filled up with notes from friends who wanted to know what was going on and angry messages from others who accused employees of being Nazi sympathizers and apologists, Callahan said. A group of men followed one employee on the street, calling her a Nazi lover and then spit on her, he said.
By Wednesday, the bar was desolate except for a few people who hadn't heard about DeRoma's donation and a half dozen white supremacists who made racist comments and harassed employees.
"The people working there didn't want to keep this guy's business operating and continue to face the harassment," Callahan said.
Those who ran the bar decided to shutter it for good on Thursday. The former employees said they don't know what DeRoma's plans are for the club but they won't be part of it.
Callahan said DeRoma rarely was in the bar and when he was, "he was really nice. No one had any idea he was of that mind-set."
The bar's staff was a diverse group racially and sexually — "all of whom are directly affected by the actions of David Duke," Callahan said. "Then to find out that the guy who signs their paychecks supports David Duke, I can't tell you how betrayed we all felt. It was emotionally jarring for all of us. And then to have the people who we thought would support us, blame us, it was pretty emotional."