Club Jäger bar owner donated to David Duke's campaign

Aware City Pages was writing about De Roma's support of David Duke, staff put together a statement defending the bar itself.

Aware City Pages was writing about De Roma's support of David Duke, staff put together a statement defending the bar itself. Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

David Duke is so racist, he's famous.

Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, has been one of the most well-known conservative white nationalists for several decades, touring America and the world to warn about Jewish conspiracies, black crime, non-white immigration, and race mixing, among other obsessions. 

Last year, Duke could barely contain his excitement over the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, especially his brutal language about Latino immigrants, Muslim refugees, and crime in majority-black cities. 

Duke embraced the Trump phenomenon and tried riding its coattails, announcing a run for U.S. Senate in his home state of Louisiana, explaining that "issues I've spearheaded and fought for are now mainstream." (Trump first denied knowing who Duke was, then later denounced him.)

For an example of Duke's prolific work as a racist, consider his Youtube channel's vile coverage of the late 2015 shooting of five Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis. Earlier this year, a jury convicted Allen Scarsella of 11 counts of assault, and a judge sentenced him to 15 years. 

Duke's video defends Scarsella's actions as saving Scarsella and his friends from "thugs" who formed a "savage mob more resembling a Tarzan movie than the America they love." Duke blamed a cover-up of this version of events on Jews in American media, whom he said "hate our people and seek our destruction." 

Four decades of language like that have earned Duke few friends in mainstream politics: His 2016 U.S. Senate campaign was instantly opposed by the Louisiana Republican Party, whose chairman called Duke, who ran as a Republican, a "hate-filled fraud."

Duke's campaign ended badly, though not nearly as badly as you'd hope. Duke was eliminated after the first round of the statewide open primary, where he managed to win 3 percent, or more than 58,000 votes. This result was probably lost on most Minnesotans, though it appears one of us was actively rooting for Duke: Julius Jaeger De Roma, owner of Clubhouse Jäger bar in the North Loop of Minneapolis. 

Since De Roma, a transplant from his native Wisconsin, purchased and renovated the longtime drinking hall -- the building dates back to 1906 -- in the mid-2000s, Club Jäger has remained consistently popular, known for its backyard patio and Transmission dance nights. A 2012 Star Tribune article described the bar as "an experience that's adult and jeune, lively, noble, comfortable and classy, cluttered and spare."

The same story makes mention of a "fight involving a local musician," which led to "allegations of anti-Semitism... toward club owner Julius Jaeger De Roma." There were "few ... hard facts" to back up those allegations; the story glosses over them, and the tale did little to damage Club Jäger as a popular destination. 

Here's a hard fact: De Roma donated $500 to David Duke's Senate campaign in October 2016, one month before the general election, and about 40 years after Duke went public as one of America's proudest racists.

De Roma's support of Duke was first highlighted in a blog post aimed at "exposing" Duke's more prominent supporters throughout the country. 

A review of Federal Elections Commission (FEC) files shows De Roma has donated to libertarian causes in the past -- he supported both Ron Paul and Rand Paul -- and has occasionally given to Republicans; last year he donated to the Trump presidential campaign. The October 2016 donation appears to be his first time supporting Duke, a frequent candidate for office. 

City Pages attempted to reach De Roma for comment about his support of Duke, and has not heard back from the bar owner, who also owns numerous properties in Uptown Mineapolis, including the properties of the Huge Theater improv group, and Buffalo Exchange, a used clothing store. De Roma has no direct involvement with either business outside of his role as landlord.

Aware that City Pages was attempting to contact De Roma, staff at Club Jäger prepared the following statement: 

Clubhouse Jager is staffed by nearly 20 employees, who come from a diverse and inclusive background. We celebrate the diversity of our employees and we do not tolerate or endorse of any kind discrimination against anyone. Our focus remains on continuing our successful record of always providing our employees with a fun and positive work environment.
Clubhouse Jager enjoys its positive relationship with the neighborhood and community, which includes a productive business relationship with City Pages for the past several years. Clubhouse Jager is dedicated to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all employees and customers.

UPDATE: In light of revelations about De Roma's political leanings, DJ Jake Rudh has canceled Transmission dance night at Club Jäger effective immediately; the board of directors at Huge Improv Theater has also issued a statement, saying the theater had "worked to build an inclusive community, "and that its members  would like to formally tell Nazis and the KKK that they can fuck straight off." Buffalo Exchange also issued a statement, saying  the used clothing store's owners "are not aligned with De Roma or his views and he has no role in our company’s values or operations."

Clarification: A sentence was added to this article to clarify De Roma's relationship with Huge Theater and Buffalo Exchange.