Clubhouse Jäger has sat quiet and seemingly empty during the six weeks since staff quit in protest of owner Julius DeRoma's support of David Duke.
No one was seen coming or going from the once-popular North Loop Minneapolis bar. Newspapers delivered sat outside the front door, untouched. A Google search of Club Jäger labels the bar "permanently closed."
Something changed this week. Over the weekend, and at least one night this week, passersby have noticed the lights were on inside the building and on its back patio.
Multiple sources familiar with the situation say the bar owner might be angling for an improbable comeback. Just more than a month after his right-wing politics made national news, DeRoma's trying to save his bar.
DeRoma, who also owns commercial real estate elsewhere in Minneapolis, has taken steps in recent days to reopen Club Jäger's doors, sources say, though they aren't sure when DeRoma plans to start up again.
Or how: Even if he could restock the bar and fill the freezer with food, who, they wonder, would work there? What customers would come back to the bar to drink?
One person says DeRoma has, in recent conversations, portrayed himself as surprised that his staff walked out on him. He shouldn't have been, according to former manager Ryan Crossland.
It was Crossland who first fielded questions from City Pages about a $500 donation DeRoma gave last October to the U.S. Senate campaign of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and avowed white supremacist.
Crossland, 36, says he asked the owner if he shouldn't be contacting a lawyer and planning to sue City Pages for libel. DeRoma answered that this would not be possible, because the story was true.
"I told him right away that it was only a matter of time until his business was over," Crossland says. "The staff who work there, the entertainers who work there, the customers, were not going to stick around."
DeRoma saw it differently. After City Pages' story came out, he told WCCO his donation was "blown up beyond what it should be" -- "well, whatever" a shirtless DeRoma told the station -- and Crossland said his boss expressed the same sentiment privately.
"[DeRoma] was under the impression that the whole thing would blow over, and wasn't a big deal," Crossland says.
The bar didn't even make it to the weekend. After several employees quit and business dropped to "almost zero," Crossland and veteran staffers and friends held one last night at the bar, and locked the doors. He stayed on through the following week to insure staffers' paychecks were processed, then met DeRoma at the business to hand in his keys.
That was five weeks ago, and Crossland says the two have not spoken since. He's moved on to another job, and other former Club Jäger servers have either found new work, picked up additional shifts at places they already worked, or successfully filed for unemployment.
Reached on Thursday and asked about rumors he was trying to reopen Club Jäger, DeRoma demurred.
"I don't care to talk to a skank like you over the phone," DeRoma said. "That you would do this professionally is just amazing. You're one of the lowest journalists I've come across."
DeRoma ended the conversation there.
Crossland, who was aware of rumors that DeRoma might reopen, says he can't imagine how the owner could hire a bar staff, given how widely the story had spread within the service industry. The ex-manager does recall fielding a few unnerving calls and emails those final days. People who knew everything about DeRoma's political leanings were reaching out, and saying they wanted to work there.
"I would be willing to bet that if anyone does want to be working there, they themselves would have to be a white supremacist," Crossland says. "Otherwise, with all the local and national coverage this got... you'd have to have your head buried in the sand not to know about it."
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