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Club Jäger is (still) back, half-packed, and... black?

Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

Clubhouse Jäger made its unexpected and unnecessary return in early 2018, with the cynical speculating that owner Julius DeRoma was looking to capitalize on unwitting tourists at a frozen Super Bowl.

DeRoma's bar had been shuttered since the previous summer, when City Pages and other outlets highlighted his political support of the former Ku Klux Klan leader and still-bigoted politician/author/actual fraud David Duke.

Club Jäger staff quit in a unified protest, and the bar quickly closed. He defended his $500 check to a fascist on the other end of the Mississippi River by saying it was "free speech" and by calling your present correspondent a "skank." Neither claim is in dispute.

Jäger's tumultuous recent past is somehow less surprising than its bizarre present. Not only is the bar still up and running, it's catering to a customer base that makes no sense.

Reader: Almost everyone at Club Jäger on Friday night was black, and if they weren't, they were clearly not uncomfortable by the presence of people of color.

Upon Jäger's resurfacing, some might've feared it could become a haven of right-wing racists. The opposite has come to fruition. From staff, to clientele, to music choices, to catering, Club Jäger is probably the North Loop's most black-friendly bar, and if you come across a more surprising development in the local bar scene... keep it to yourself. We're not ready for it.

This appears to have been the (curious) case for a while now. As of last year, and as recently as May, Ray Seville of KMOJ was promoting something called "NYT LYF," a Friday DJs-and-dancing night -- or NYT, if you will -- at a place the posters labeled "Clubhouse Bar," a location with an eerily similar address to that of Club Jäger.

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This past Friday, your correspondent and a colleague were treated well by customers and employees. A spot-on and super-friendly bartender and an effusive young fried-chicken purveyor, both people of color, set a warm, welcoming tone. 

The bar's less crowded and quieter than it would've been on a July night in 2017, before DeRoma's David Duke connection came to light, to say nothing of DJ Jake Ruhd's jam-packed and raucous Transmission dance nights, which shifted venues to First Avenue or the Uptown VFW after the news broke.

The few dozen happy customers they served had a good time. So did we.

The only moment even approaching conflict came when a (white) manager ducked our questions about Julius DeRoma's support of David Duke. Julius is a nice guy, personally, we were told. And besides, all politicians suck, so what's the difference? 

It goes without saying that any self-respecting person of color really, really doesn't like guys like David Duke, and probably wouldn't want to give money to anyone who'd cut a check to a man who's quoted as having once said:

White people don't need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals.

Duke's villainy has morphed only slightly over the decades. Once upon a time, he saw fit to wear Nazi uniforms or a KKK hood, and felt comfortable saying black people have "more of a tendency to act in anti-social ways" and "to commit crime." These days he's couching his racism in mush-mouthed language about not hating other races or religions or cultures but just loving his own so darn much.

It's transparently bullshit, but Duke's influence on modern conservatives and how they talk about non-whites and immigration is undeniable.

Dude was deflecting questions about his philosophy with claims of "reverse racism" back in 1991. He's the deadbeat dad of every hateful and unhinged  thread on r/TheDonald. Like the president (who said he didn't know who Duke was), David denies everything, and is desperate for your emotional and financial support in his time of persecution and hardship as a successful and thoroughly unimpressive white man.

The people at the bar on Friday seemed cool. There's still a good time to be had here. But we have to wonder: If Julius DeRoma's current clientele knew what he's done with his money in the recent past, would they still want to buy drinks at his bar?