HUGE Theater plans forum in response to landlord’s David Duke donation

Photo courtesy Club Jäger Facebook page

The HUGE Theater will host a forum Wednesday, Sept. 6 for a community discussion following news that the theater’s landlord  supported the 2016 Senate run of David Duke, a white nationalist and former KKK leader.

Staff at Club Jager quit after a City Pages story detailed Julius Jaeger DeRoma’s donation to Duke’s campaign to represent Louisiana in Congress. An employee told The Journal that Aug. 31 was the staff’s last night.

According to public records filed with the Federal Exchange Commission, DeRoma donated $500 to Duke’s Senate bid.

DeRoma could not be reached for comment. In an interview with WCCO, DeRoma said the donation was “basically free speech” and the issue had “blown up beyond what it should be.”

DeRoma is a real estate developer and owns several buildings in Minneapolis, including the home of Huge Theater. In a statement, the Lyn-Lake improv theater, which is in its third year of a 10-year lease, said it was not aware of its landlord’s donation. The group has worked with other theaters around the country to develop student guidelines “to make sure our classes and stage are inclusive and free of threat or intimidation of any kind.”

“From our first days we have worked to build an inclusive community and to illuminate the path from student to stage so we could share this art form we love,” its board of directors said in a statement. “For these reasons and more, we would like to formally tell Nazis and the KKK that they can [expletive] straight off.”

DeRoma is also the landlord of Uptown’s Buffalo Exchange. The vintage and used clothing store said in a statement that the business is “not aligned with him or his views.”

“Buffalo Exchange is a family-owned business committed to celebrating diversity and individuality through inclusion and fashion. We stand against discrimination and hate in every way,” it said.

De Roma owns the building home to Legacy Glassworks, and a shop statement said owners, residents and staff “denounce racism and bias in any form. We will continue to foster an inclusive work and community environment.”

Club Jäger, built in 1906, is one of the city’s oldest continuously operated bars. DeRoma bought it in 2004.

Current and former employees of Club Jäger are distancing themselves from the bar’s owner.

Ryan Crossland, the bar’s general manager, said in a public Facebook post that he met with staff last week.

“The staff and I are sick about this. This is not who we are or what we believe in,” he said.

Jake Rudh, the DJ behind the popular Transmission dance nights, said he would no longer host the weekly event at the North Loop bar.

“I refuse to stay at a venue where the owner supports the likes of David Duke and his messages of hate,” he wrote on Facebook. “Bigotry, hate, violence, and racism has no place at Transmission or anywhere on this planet.”

Rep. Keith Ellison said in a statement that people should raise their voices against “haters like Duke, but also to the financiers of his hate.”

“Minneapolis prides itself on its diversity and willingness to accept all people — no matter their race and religion. The views of David Duke, the KKK, and white supremacists everywhere are at complete odds with our Constitution and Minnesota values,” he said.

The HUGE Theater forum runs from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6 at the theater, located at 3037 Lyndale Ave. S. The forum will be moderated by Levi Weinhagen, a member of the improv community and host of the Not About You podcast.