Editor’s note: Since the publication of this story, Red Star Group LLC manager Emad Abed has denied having made the posts referenced in this story or confirming them as his, and says they may have been fabricated. This denial has been added to the story.
It’s not at all uncommon for the Twin Cities queer scene to lend a hand to supportive organizations in need. So when Cheers, a new Minneapolis gay bar planned for the old Rudolph’s Bar-B-Que space on Lyndale and Franklin, launched a GoFundMe page to buy the building, it wasn’t a stretch to expect at least a little boost.
Cheers wanted $2 million to buy the place “and have it preserved for the LGBTQ Community” in time for a grand opening during Pride Weekend. There were reportedly big rewards for big donors: $10,000 would get you free beer, free growler refills, and even a plaque on an LGBT wall of fame.
We say “reportedly” here because the campaign has since been removed. Local queer groups on Facebook have been discussing it at length, and not in a good way. The basic tenor: Sure, having a gay bar near Uptown would be cool. And ordinarily, they’d love to pitch in.
Just maybe not this gay bar.
Cheers’ Facebook reviews, which have since been deleted along with the page itself, revealed some major qualms from some internet users. The comments – some from prominent members of the Minneapolis queer scene – call the bar’s owner “unprofessional,” “disgusting,” and “a massive anti-Semite.” They say he’s not really supportive of the queer community – just a bigot “trying to make a quick buck.”
Cheers is registered under Red Star Group LLC, a Minneapolis company renting the old Rudolph’s from the previous owners. The LLC manager is one Emad Yousef Abed. For the past few days, various Facebook users have been posting screenshots from posts on his own page. Some are rather disturbing.
“Did you know Israel and it’s [sic] people must be eliminated from existence,” a December 2015 post read. It also called Israelis a “cancer.” Later that month, one read that they were “fuckin criminals” and that “Hitler should have finished them all.”
“Maybe we should remove them from Palestine and send them by themselves to live on the MOON.”
That’s just a small sample, but it was enough to turn a lot of potential customers off. When one user called Cheers “drunk and done” and told the bar to “go away,” Abed responded from his personal profile to tell her to keep her “fat ass” away from his bar.
“I’m in business to make money,” he wrote, according to a screenshot. “You and your community can kiss my ass and none of you evil people commenting on this post are allowed in my bar. Go have a drink in hell because all of you are going there when you exit this earth.”
Abed lashed out at other users to tell them they were “not welcome,” call them “losers,” and claim that the criticism and allegations of anti-Semitism are “fake news and fake comments.”
Abed initially confirmed with City Pages that the Facebook profile was his – as were the posts. He now says he never made them or confirmed they were his, and that they may have been fabricated.
He insists that he is not an anti-Semite, and that “this whole thing started because we wanted to raise funds so we can buy the building.” He does have disagreements with Israel and how it treats Palestinians, he says, but all he’s doing is “reporting the facts.”
“Most of my friends are Jewish, and I love them,” he says. His Facebook page is now private.
His posts did rub a lot of people the wrong way, to put it mildly. Some claimed that Abed wasn’t even queer himself, and was just exploiting a marketable demographic. He says he won’t comment on his sexuality.
He doesn’t know yet why his GoFundMe page was shut down, but he says he hadn't been raising much from it anyway. “It seems this community is vey [sic] cheap and they have no appreciation that we are opening a gay bar to accommodate the gay community,” he wrote on Facebook.
Still, one could argue he did a fine job repelling the very people he set out to serve. One commented they’d never seen anyone “self-cancel” quite this quickly. Abed says he doesn’t “need their business.” They say they don’t need his.
But Nate McClaine and Courtney Johnson -- Cheers' managers and a gay couple -- mostly wish the whole thing wasn't happening.
"We're just trying to open a bar," Johnson says, adding that Abed "has nothing against gays," and that his Facebook profile has nothing to do with Cheers.
"People have their different views," McClaine says. He "personally knows" Abed, that the posts mostly "got blown out of proportion," but concedes he doesn't "think it's a good look" for the bar.
Neither would comment on any of the things Abed posted, or the allegations of anti-Semitism. They just want the community to know that they still hope to open during Pride Weekend, and they want everyone to come.
But despite their best hopes, it looks like what they call a Facebook "nightmare" isn't going away anytime soon. A lot of queer Minnesotans have made up their minds.
“I was excited about this place,” one commenter noted. “Now I’m not.”