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  1. Black activists and North End residents are demanding that St. Paul officials shut down a Rice St. bar where two black men have been killed in the past two years.
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  3. The Office of Licensing, Inspections and Environmental Protection could decide by next week if there is evidence to take action against Born's Dutch Bar, 899 Rice St., said Robert Kessler, director of the office.
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  5. The movement, which also includes a petition drive by neighborhood residents to revoke the saloon's liquor license, was sparked by the beating death of Willie Thomas inside the bar just after midnight last Saturday.
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  7. Thomas allegedly was punched and kicked repeatedly by at least two white men who locked the doors and demanded to search the patrons to find a wallet one thought had been stolen. Thomas' relatives said he was chosen because he was black. Police said they don't believe that the slaying was motivated by race.
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  9. Michael T. Gorman, 30, and Charles Naastad, 25, both of St. Paul, were charged with the slaying and remain in the Ramsey County jail in lieu of $1 million bail. Both have criminal records and motorcycle-gang affiliation and were banned from the bar, as were other members of the East Side Gangsters, said bar owner Jerry Born.
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  11. "They were harassing my white customers and my black customers," he said Friday at his bar, where a smoke-stained sign warns customers not to fight or use foul or abusive language.
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  13. Thomas' killing came less than two years after another black man, Jessie Adams, was shot and killed outside Born's in a fight with two white men who used racial epithets and asked why he was in a predominantly white neighborhood.
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  15. Nick Davis, president of the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP, said at a news conference yesterday that he is confident that the bar will lose its license. And, he said, he plans to ask the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the black victims' civil rights were violated.
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  17. "We know what it takes to close down a bar and we think all the criteria have been met," Davis said. "We think they are going to do the right thing, and if they don't we will go the next step."
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  19. Born, who has owned the bar for 21 years, said that Thomas' slaying was not racially motivated, that he is not a racist and that bar employees are not at fault for either killing.
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  21. "I have blacks in here all the time, and they've never had any problems," he said.
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  23. But City Council Member Janice Rettman, who represents the area, and Mayor Jim Scheibel have expressed concern about the racial overtones. They discussed the incident Wednesday morning, Rettman said.
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  25. Rettman also asked city officials to start an investigation to determine if the bar is mismanaged. Witnesses told police that bar employees did not try to break up the fight, did not call Born or police until after Gorman, Naastad and three other alleged gang members left the bar, and did not call police or paramedics until after Born arrived.
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  27. Born, however, defended his bartenders and said they and his bar are also victims of Gorman and Naastad.
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  29. "I don't pay bartenders to fight with gang members," Born said. "We give them a drink and hope they turn around and leave."
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  31. He said bartenders did not immediately call Born or police because they feared that the gang members would assault them.
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  33. Born knows that city officials could move to reprimand him, suspend his liquor license or revoke it. But he voiced confidence that, once all the facts are in, he won't be penalized.
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  35. "We didn't do anything wrong," he said. "All my bartenders are guilty of is being afraid of these East Side Gangsters."
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  37. The bar's liquor license was suspended for one day in May for serving alcohol to a minor, Kessler said.
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  39. The licensing department also has received complaints about the bar, its patrons, fights and loud music, Kessler said. But in each case, Born has made recommended changes, he said.
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  41. "He does run a good bar," Kessler said. "It's clean and he hasn't had any environmental or health or building complaints. It's just a bar that attracts characters."
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