A Benton County bar that displays an extensive collection of Confederate memorabilia was delisted from Explore MN, the state’s official tourism website, after area residents objected to “glorifying” the Confederacy.
But the listing for Rollie’s Rednecks and Longnecks in Sauk Rapids has been reinstated. And the head of the local tourism organization said nothing in the displays is against the group’s policies.
“It’s up to the business owner what they want to display,” said Julie Lunning, executive director of Visit Greater St. Cloud. “Rollie’s has a very eclectic mix of décor that the owner has collected from across the country.
“I wouldn’t assume it’s intentional to hurt anybody,” she said. “Our position is, we remain neutral. It’s a successful business, and customers can to choose to frequent that business if they want.”
Explore MN allows local promotion agencies to maintain listings on the statewide site for businesses in their area, a spokeswoman said. After receiving about 30 complaints from area residents about Rollie’s, Visit Greater St. Cloud took down the listing and reviewed it, Lunning said.
“We very quickly found that there was nothing that goes against any of [our] policies,” she said. “We did resubmit it to be back-listed on the website.” The reinstated listing appeared on Explore MN Tuesday night.
Rollie’s touts itself as “Minnesota’s No. 1 honkytonk.” Photos on the bar’s website show a variety of Confederate memorabilia on display, including flags, signs, posters and items related to “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a popular 1980s TV show set in the southern United States.
The bar is owned by Roland Hogrefe, who did not return a phone call and a text seeking comment Tuesday. Hogrefe was convicted of a felony in 2011 after he ran down a black man with his car on a St. Cloud street. According to Benton County court records, Hogrefe was sentenced to a year and a day in state prison after pleading guilty to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an injury accident. His prison sentence was stayed, and he was ordered to serve 90 days in the county jail.
Media reports at the time said Hogrefe drove by a group of African-American men and exchanged insults. He turned his vehicle around and drove back at the men, striking and injuring one, then drove away. He was arrested after police identified his distinctive truck.
Christopher Lehman, a professor at St. Cloud State University, was among those who sent letters objecting to the bar being listed on a state tourism website.
“As a taxpaying resident of Minnesota, I do not want my tax dollars to go towards promoting a business that glorifies the Confederacy, whose army fought against and killed thousands of Minnesotans,” Lehman wrote. “As a taxpaying resident of Minnesota and a descendant of slaves, I do not want my tax dollars to go towards promoting a business that glorifies people who seceded from the United States to defend slavery.
“If, in this post-George Floyd climate, the former Confederate state of Virginia can remove its statue of Robert E. Lee, then the Union state of Minnesota, where Floyd was killed, can stop promoting a restaurant glorifying an army that killed thousands of Minnesotans in the name of defending slavery,” he wrote.
In an interview Tuesday, Lehman said he wasn’t trying to get the business shut down.
“All I wanted to do was get the government out of the way,” he said. “What goes on in different businesses that are privately owned, they are free to do whatever they want. That’s their freedom of speech. I’m not looking for anyone to get shut down or lose their business.
“Since there’s some government involvement … with something that has to do with promoting Confederate imagery during this time we’re living in right now, I was greatly opposed to that,” he said.
Lunning said her tourism group received about 30 messages opposed to Rollie’s and received about the same number in favor.