The owner of a Sauk Rapids bar and restaurant has sued a local activist group for defamation after it boasted about getting the business removed from a tourism website.
Rollie Hogrefe, owner of Rollie’s Rednecks and Longnecks, filed a defamation and tortious interference lawsuit Wednesday against the “radical agitators” of UniteCloud and its executive director Natalie Ringsmuth.
Filed in Benton County District Court, the lawsuit claims UniteCloud “published false and misleading statements online and in the public, with the specific goal of harming Rollie’s ability to do business and continue to attract the amazing local and national music acts that have made them famous.”
Earlier this month, UniteCloud published a series of anonymous testimonies on its Facebook page from people who allegedly visited the bar in the past. The posts accused Hogrefe and his staff of engaging in racist and homophobic behavior.
In another post, UniteCloud boasted about successfully getting Hogrefe’s restaurant removed from the website of Visit Greater St. Cloud, a tourism promotion agency. UniteCloud and others in the community have objected to Hogrefe’s display of Confederate memorabilia in his bar.
“If you hold different political or social views than Natalie and her group, they will go after you and not stop until they shut you down,” Hogrefe said in a press release. “It’s time someone stands up to this bullying and cancel the ‘Cancel Culture.’”
Hogrefe had previously sent a cease and desist letter to UniteCloud and Ringsmuth, asking them to take down the anonymous testimonies and to refrain from “further harassment.” That request was ignored, leading to the lawsuit being filed.
The lawsuit accuses UniteCloud and Ringsmuth of taking actions intentionally aimed at defaming, harassing, and interfering with Hogrefe’s business.
“Despite its stated mission, Defendant UniteCloud has engaged in acts to raise tension in central Minnesota by harassing persons and entities it perceives to hold different views on political matters, social events, and government action,” states the lawsuit.
The complaint seeks at least $50,000 in damages.
“Natalie and her group are piggybacking on the ‘Cancel Culture’ to try and destroy people and businesses they disagree with,” Hogrefe added. “That is wrong and I am willing to take the fight to them, so they can’t do this to other small businesses in our community.”
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