The owner of a soon-to-open gay bar in Minneapolis' Lowry Hill neighborhood has become embroiled in an antisemitism row after some of his old Facebook posts came to the attention of the city's Jewish and LGBTQ communities.
Emad Yousef Abed is the businessman reportedly behind Cheers, an LGBTQ-friendly bar in the former home of Rudolph's Bar-B-Que at Lyndale and Franklin.
He had launched a GoFundMe campaign (since deactivated) to raise $2 million to get the bar open in time for Pride, but now a protest called "Queers Against Cheers" is being planned outside the bar on the planned opening day of June 21.
It comes after posts on Facebook drew attention to some of the comments made by Abed in the past, including saying "Israel and its people must be eliminated from existence," "Hitler should have finished them all," and "All world problems are caused by Israelis and Jews."
Abed then started responding to people on a Facebook thread by Andy Birkey, with one of the comments saying:
“This community is a joke. We don’t want their business or support. They can take their money to the Saloon & Gay 90. Without this group commenting on this post we will do big business and we will be the number one gay bar in town Without all the stupid losers commenting on this post Andy Birkey can take his post and shuv it up his gay ass. ❤️ this group here they are all racist, prejudice, biased and discriminatory, that’s why they are not welcome in my bar. My bar will still be number one without them and without their money.”
Another screenshot showed him telling a commenter: "I’m in business to make money. 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."
The comments sparked responses from the Jewish and LGBTQ communities, with the bar's Facebook page inundated with negative reviews. It has since been deleted.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told TC Jewfolk: "While the overwhelmingly negative response to this bigot is heartening, this latest expression of hate demonstrates how quickly unhinged opposition to Israel and Zionism devolves into anti-Semitism."
Also responding was Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, himself Jewish, who said on Twitter: "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. While you’ll find this welcoming attitude at LGBTQ bars across MPLS, you won’t find it at Cheers.
"I’ll be sure to patron the welcoming ones. L’chaim! (Not Cheers)."
Abed spoke to Twin Cities Business Magazine earlier this week, saying he'd abandoned his plans to raise the $2 million after the scrutiny he was getting on social media.
TCB notes that Red Star LLC, the company owned by Abed that's behind the bar, could now face losing the liquor license approved this past February for the bar.
Abed confirmed to City Pages that the posts made were his, but insisted he wasn't an antisemite, saying his comments about Israel and Palestine are just "reporting the facts."
He also told the magazine that "most of my friends are Jewish, and I love them."