It turns out it’s better when everybody doesn’t know your name.
At least that’s the case for Emad Abed, the man behind Cheers, the LGBTQ bar slated to open in the former Rudolph’s Bar-B-Que space at Franklin & Lyndale this month. But the status of those plans is up in the air after the restaurant reportedly made a crowdfunding campaign to buy the building, which prompted members of the Twin Cities queer community to dig into Abed’s online footprint. Among the revelations was a series of anti-Semitic remarks, which drew wide condemnation from the LGBTQ and Jewish communities.
Abed, who is the registered owner of Red Star LLC, the company behind the bar, was reported to have posted several anti-Semitic comments on his personal Facebook page by people researching the bar.
Chad Kampe, who owns and operates local LGBTQ event service Flip Phone, said he’s always on the lookout for new queer bars in Minneapolis. He found out about Cheers in February, when it first established a website. At the time, he said, the page was pretty generic. But in late May, the bar caught his attention with a GoFundMe campaign to raise up to $2 million to buy the building under the stated goal of keeping the bar in queer community perpetually.
The campaign “sort of made me take a step back,” Kampe said.
Other people took a step back, too, including Andy Birkey, who dug into Abed’s Facebook account. Screenshots of Abed’s posts gathered online by Birkey included several comments attacking Israelis and Jews with anti-Semitic tropes.
“Jews run the White House, the congress and the senate. All world problems are caused by Israelis and Jews,” reads one screenshotted post from 2016.
“This is not someone I want to have in our community,” Kampe said.
Abed and Cheers have not responded to requests for comment for this story. The GoFundMe and Facebook pages for Cheers have since been deleted. Almost all of the content has been removed from Abed’s personal Facebook account. He confirmed to Hannah Jones of City Pages that he was the owner of the bar and made the Facebook posts; he told the paper he has Jewish friends who he loves.
“Mr. Abed has confirmed his authorship of the posts in multiple forums and I think any reasonable person would draw the conclusion that those posts are highly offensive,” Birkey wrote in an email to the Southwest Journal on June 7. (Birkey declined to comment further, saying that Abed had threatened legal action against him.)
The revelation sparked outrage among the Minneapolis LGBTQ and Jewish communities. Mayor Jacob Frey, who is Jewish, wrote a post condemning the bar last week.
“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came,” the mayor posted on social media. “While you will find this welcoming attitude at LGBTQ bars throughout the city, you won’t find it at Cheers. I’ll make sure to patron the welcoming ones this pride month. L’chaim! (Not Cheers).”
Kampe is helping to organize an event June 13 at First Avenue called “L’chaim: Twin Cities United to Fight Anti-Semitism and Hatred”. Money raised at the party will go toward Jewish nonprofits fighting anti-Semitism, Kampe said.
A protest is also planned outside of the bar on June 21, the date the GoFundMe page reportedly said the bar would open. The event, “Queers Against Cheers: Protest Anti-Semitism,” had more than 400 people signed up to attend on Facebook as of press time.