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Proud Boys in Maine Meeting at Portland Dive Bar

A bartender at Mathew’s Pub says he was fired for refusing to serve members of the violent hate group

by | Jul 20, 2021

photo/Chris Busby

 

Members of the violent white-supremacist hate group known as The Proud Boys have been meeting monthly at a dive bar in downtown Portland since at least last January, according to several sources, including a bartender who said he was fired last Sunday after refusing to serve the racists the previous evening.

Pat Hogan, 45, began bartending at Mathew’s Pub, located near the Portland Museum of Art on Free Street, in May of this year. During his second night on the job that month, Hogan said he was shocked to discover that the group meeting in the bar’s back room was a gang of Proud Boys from all over Maine, some as far as Aroostook County — more than 20 people in total.

“They weren’t trying to hide it,” Hogan told Mainer during an exclusive interview yesterday. Members had tattoos and clothing that identified them as Proud Boys, including Fred Perry polos and t-shirts promoting gun brands. Parked outside the bar that night was a sport-utility vehicle with heavily tinted windows and a Maine license plate that read “PRDBOY.”        

“The thing that really cracked me up was the amount of spit that was on that vehicle,” Hogan recalled, from “people who had walked by and spat on it.”

After work that night, Hogan said he told Mathew’s owner Bob Ruminski: “‘Those guys are Proud Boys. It could really be a problem.’

“He had no idea what I was talking about,” Hogan said of Ruminski. “He was like, ‘Just take their money. I don’t care what they do. I mean, we can’t throw ’em out, because it’s against the law.’”

Hogan said he countered that the bar could simply refuse to serve them. “‘Yeah,’” Ruminski replied, according to Hogan, “‘but then you’re lookin’ at a lawsuit.’”

Ruminski could not be reached for comment; Mathew’s is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and the voicemail on his flip phone was full. Ruminski has long had close business and personal ties to members of Portland’s criminal underworld, including convicted bookie and real-estate kingpin Steve Mardigan, whose gambling ring included members of the Portland Police Department. (Ruminski was not charged in connection with the federal government’s 2018 prosecution of Mardigan, who’s since been released from prison.)

Hogan had high praise for Ruminski as a boss and a person. He described Ruminski as “a walking callus” who works upwards of 100 hours a week doing property maintenance, construction and rebuilding cars, in addition to running the bar with his wife, a woman sources call “Bree” (Mainer was unable to immediately confirm her full name).

Hogan said Ruminski is not a racist. “He’s a great fucking guy,” he said. “He’s just a dumb-ass who doesn’t understand the severity of it all. It’s like trying to convince an old man of something that they just don’t want to know about.”

Hogan said the Maine Proud Boys described themselves to Ruminski last winter as a “drinking club” — a ruse group members have used in other cities, according to press accounts — that wanted to rent the bar’s back room. It was the “middle of the pandemic, when you’re scratching for money,” said Hogan, “and Bobby was like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure!’ [He had] no idea what they were, didn’t ask what their organization was.”

The group began meeting at Mathew’s on the third Saturday of every month, arriving around 5 p.m. and staying most of the night, according to Hogan.

“And here’s the fuckin’ problem with them,” he said. “They come in, they’re polite, they tip well, they’re not dirty. You would think that they’re upstanding fellas — probably cops, by the looks of them.”

But also like cops, The Proud Boys’ mere presence can incite violence. That’s what happened during their June meeting at Mathew’s, Hogan said, when a gang member with “a lot of hubris … busted out his Proud Boy flag and was holding it up at the bar and shaking it.

“Well, this big fella who’d just graduated from UMaine, played football for ’em, he’s like boom,” Hogan said, slamming both palms on a table the way the football player at the bar did before he abruptly stood up “and walked straight through the guy, tried to knock the flag out [of his hands].”

Pat Hogan in Portland’s Longfellow Square. photo/Chris Busby

Hogan, a burly former college football player himself, said he was able to separate the combatants, and gave the flag-waving Proud Boy hell: “‘Put that fucking thing away. You can’t do that!’” Hogan said. “‘You get back in your fucking hole.’ I treated them with nothing but disrespect.”

The man Hogan believes was the gang’s leader approached him at the bar that June night. “‘So I hear you have a problem with us,’” he said, according to Hogan, who does not know the man’s name.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I really do. But I’ll serve you. You’re being respectful. I’m being respectful by serving you. But I don’t need to like you. I’ll take your money. I don’t care if you guys tip me.’

“He was like, ‘What do you know about us?’ And I was like, ‘Where should I start?’

Hogan had taken a deep dive into The Proud Boys’ history since encountering them in his workplace the previous month. “‘You want to talk about [neo-Nazi Proud Boys founder] Gavin McInnes,’” he’d tauntingly replied, “‘or you want to talk about Enrique Tarrio?’” — the Proud Boys leader (and, according to court records, FBI snitch) who pleaded guilty yesterday to a weapons charge and to burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a Washington, D.C., church last December.

The Proud Boy “just walked outside and gave me the finger for the rest of the night, literally,” Hogan said. “But he was talking to the owner’s wife” — Bree — “who was sitting in her truck. A bunch of them Proud Boys were out there [talking to her].”

Both Hogan and Mathew’s regular Bill Dawson said Bree is more politically astute than her husband and is a staunch supporter of disgraced former President Donald Trump.

This past weekend, Bree accosted Carl Currie, the head bartender at Blackstones, a storied gay bar in Portland’s West End, outside Geno’s, the downtown punk-rock club that Currie’s partner, Kat Taylor, took over last summer. Bree was apparently angry that Currie had posted about the Proud Boys’ meetings at Mathew’s on social media.

Currie said Bree threatened to sue him and claimed his post amounted to “discriminating against her customers.” He said she accused people of lying about The Proud Boys because their critics support President Joe Biden, rather than Trump, who infamously encouraged the gang to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate last fall. (Members of The Proud Boys are among those arrested for allegedly participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.)

“She’s like, ‘You wouldn’t even know them’” to be Proud Boys, Currie said, “they’re everyday people. … Did they bother you? You’re discriminating against them and they didn’t even bother you.”

“They’re a misogynist, racist group,” responded Currie (who contributed writing to The Bollard, Mainer’s predecessor publication, many years ago). “It was insane,” he said of his encounter with Bree on Congress Street.

After the Proud Boys’ June meeting, Hogan had had enough. He said he had thought he’d reached an agreement with Ruminski by which Proud Boys could still drink at Mathew’s, but could not assemble in the back room or upstairs, and could not wear identifying clothing, in keeping with the bar’s longstanding ban on “club colors” — originally imposed to stop fights between rival motorcycle gangs.

But when Hogan showed up for work last Saturday, there were The Proud Boys again, wearing their gang bling and setting up the back room for their monthly planning session. After five tries, Hogan said he finally reached Ruminski on his flip phone.

“‘It’s stupid, Bobby!’” Hogan yelled into his cell phone, standing outside the bar as a few Proud Boys watched him from across the street.

“‘It sounds to me like you’re the one who really dislikes them,’” Ruminski said, according to Hogan.

“I was like, ‘I hope so! But I speak for a lot of people.’”

“‘Oh, they’re not that bad,’” the boss replied.

“‘They’re bad as the fuckin’ Klan, Bobby!’” Hogan hollered. Then, pointing at the men across Free Street, he added, “‘Yeah, I’m talking about you motherfuckers.’”

According to Hogan, there was another bartender on duty, and Ruminski said he’d come in to cover his shift, so Hogan left Mathew’s and went to Geno’s, where he said he tried to organize an impromptu protest against The Proud Boys as their meeting began a block away.

“I really did my best to try and raise a ruckus the other night down there by reaching out to punks, and the reaction was very disappointing,” Hogan said. The typical response was, “‘Oh, we don’t want to get in a fight’ … or lots of it was, ‘I just don’t want to see that type of masculinity.’ And I was like, ‘Now, wait a second. You talk a huge game’” about being anti-fascist.

Hogan and other sources said more than one person did go into Mathew’s on Saturday to surreptitiously photograph gang members. One of those local anti-fascists told Hogan the Proud Boys recognized him, “attacked” him outside the bar, and threateningly told him they know where his family lives (Mainer was unable to confirm this account). Hogan said Proud Boys had, on a previous night, accosted a young woman who inadvertently took a photo in the bar that may have caught some of them in the frame. And multiple sources said at least one Portland punk-rocker did physically confront the racists outside Mathew’s last Saturday (this source was unavailable to provide comment last night).

Hogan said he returned to Mathew’s on Sunday night hoping to make peace with his boss and keep his job. Ruminski was there. “‘I love you, man, and I think you’re great,’” Hogan said he told him. “‘I never disrespected your bar.’”

“‘You were outside yelling at patrons,’” Ruminski said.

“‘Big difference when those patrons are Nazis,’” Hogan replied, and added, “‘Bobby, I’ll apologize for making you upset, but I’ll never apologize for doing that.’

“‘I’ve got to let you go’” Ruminski responded, according to Hogan. “He wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I could tell he was so bummed out that he had to do it.”

“‘You know, we made over five hundred bucks last night behind this bar,’” Ruminski said, according to Hogan. He reminded the bartender that he gets tips on such sums for working Proud Boys events.

“I was like, ‘I don’t give a fuck, Bobby. … Do you know how many people will not come in here because of that five hundred dollars? That five hundred dollars is a drop into the bucket of what you’re gonna lose.’”

Ruminski snorted derisively, said Hogan, and replied, “‘I don’t think so. I’ve run this place for 21 years.’” I was like, ‘Dude, you have no idea what young kids are like anymore. … You picked the wrong team on this one.’”

Since starting at Mathew’s as its night bartender in May, Hogan said he’d been bringing in a younger and more progressive clientele, including transgender customers who may not have felt comfortable in the notoriously dingy and bleak bar before. He’d been organizing a weekly stand-up comedy series prior to his firing.

Gwynne Williams, a Geno’s regular who fronts the rock band Gwynne & The Tonics, said she approached Ruminski and the day bartender, a woman named Courtney, a month or so ago about promoting rock shows at Mathew’s this summer. In past years, the bar has hosted numerous punk, metal and hardcore shows inside and on its rooftop deck overlooking Casco Bay.

According to Williams, Courtney (who could not be reached for comment) said local Proud Boys first approached Mathew’s about booking its back room last August, claiming to be a social club. After their meeting there last summer, they allegedly left stickers and other Proud Boys propaganda all over the bar. (That practice has continued; Hogan once removed all their stickers and reapplied them to the urinal, Dawson said.)

Word of the Proud Boys’ monthly meetings at Mathew’s spread informally and on social media in recent weeks. Williams said one local rock band, FonFon Ru, declined to play a show she hoped to put on at Mathew’s this summer, citing the bar’s affiliation with the hate group.

According to Williams, Courtney said The Proud Boys had been trying to reserve a meeting room at Mathew’s again this year, but she and other bar staff had rebuffed them. She gave Williams some chalk and encouraged her to write a message to that effect on the bar’s sidewalk sandwich board. Williams complied, scrawling, “Mathew’s does NOT tolerate hate,’ on the sign, which has remained outside the establishment since, much to the chagrin of Hogan.

photo/courtesy Gwynne Williams

“I was an English major in college, with a minor in studio art and religion, but my focus in religion was on the Holocaust,” he said. “There’s a book called Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which is all about sovereign citizens of Germany who were just like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll kill a bunch of Jews for ya.’ … Bobby is acting like one of those people by allowing [gatherings of] the Proud Boys, which are very much like the Brown Shirts of old. I think there’ll be a Night of Broken Glass in America if this kind of shit keeps up.”

Hogan landed the job at Mathew’s shortly after emerging from a remarkable personal journey. Last decade, within the span of a few years, he said both his parents died and he lost his wife after she was diagnosed with leukemia and her wealthy family — fearing Hogan’s potential inheritance if, as doctors then expected, she died — cut him out of her life (she survived; their marriage did not).

“It was a blast crater that was left behind, that you couldn’t fill,” he said. Hogan slipped into an isolated existence not unlike that from which members of The Proud Boys and other far-right extremist groups are lured into a life of hate.

“I got a little money from when my mom died, so I rented a place in the mill in Biddeford and didn’t work — just sat and cried and played video games and got fat,” Hogan recalled. “My [two young] kids would come down and I would try and hide the crying. They knew I was fucked up. And then, at the end of the lease, I was like, Fuck, I didn’t get another lease, and before I knew it I was living in the woods. And I loved it.”

Hogan said he spent nearly two and a half years — 29 months — living in a tent, alone, in the woods near an interstate highway in Saco, Biddeford’s twin city, eating food from dumpsters and trespassing at night to recharge his cell phones and “piggyback” on Wi-Fi networks to download stuff onto his tablet. He documented the experience in a collection of stories, The 260-Pound Raccoon, that he hopes to get published someday.

“The first time you walk down Route 1 with a backpack — and people know you’re homeless, ’cause you’ve got a backpack and you’re walking down Route 1 — you lose a little bit of ego,” said Hogan. “The first time you go and get food from a food bank, you lose a little bit of your ego. But the first time you go into the bins behind Hannaford and start pulling food out of there, and that’s what you’re eating — and I did that hundreds of times — you lose all your ego.

“So once that was gone, I was like, I can do whatever the fuck I want. I am invisible. I am pliable. I am vapor,” he continued. “And in the end, I’m more mentally healthy than I’ve been in eons. I’m more honest and connected with myself than I’ve ever been, and the belief I have in myself is through the roof, because I was able to aspirando et perseverando — ‘aspire and persevere.’” That’s the motto of the private boarding school he attended in Connecticut, Avon Old Farms School, home of the Winged Beavers, as their sports teams are called — “‘aspire’ were the wings, and ‘persevere’ was the beaver,” Hogan explained.

Not long after starting at Mathew’s, Hogan said he met some neighbors who gave his old school’s motto much deeper significance. It was around 3 a.m. and Hogan, having recently left work at the bar, was winding down by smoking a joint outside his Portland apartment. The woman next door, a refugee from Rwanda, was just returning from work at a local hospital — “one of her, like, probably six jobs,” Hogan said. They struck up a conversation and became friends.

“Her [two] kids adore me, and we all get along great,” said Hogan. “I’ve been to their apartment for dinner. I had beef tongue — never before had I had beef tongue like that.”

One night at dinner, Hogan heard the story of the woman’s husband’s experience during the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s. “He has a scar that goes” — Hogan made a swipe across his body from his right collarbone down to his left hip. “Literally, they almost cut him in half. And when he woke up, after being attacked, he was in a pile of all of his friends and his brothers, who were all slaughtered, and they were piled on him and over him and around him. So that got me.

“Then she kinda got into what happened to her,” Hogan continued, tears welling in his eyes as he recalled the tale. “And listening to this lady … just the fuckin’ rape and the beatings. And she’s so happy and wonderful, this lady.

“I think about the kind of shit that they went through — and yeah, I lived in the woods — but then I look at these fuckin’ assholes spoutin’ shit: they hate what the refugees coming into Portland are doing to the city. Yeah, what are they doing? They’re working six fuckin’ jobs, protecting their family, came from a place that we couldn’t even fuckin’ fathom, and you’re gonna sit here and tell us you fuckin’ hate them?

No,” Hogan emphatically added. “It’s that kind of shit that gets me. It’s that kind of shit that isn’t right anymore.”

“My nickname is Ferdinand, as in Ferdinand the Bull,” Hogan remarked toward the end of our talk. “Ferdinand would rather sit underneath his cork tree and sniff the flowers than fight, but when it came to fighting, there was no one as bad as Ferdinand. It’s been my nickname for a long time. And my family motto is ELE: Everybody Love Everybody. … [But] I grew up in Kennebunk. I remember going to Biddeford just to get in fights — you know, when you could still do that.”  

Last Saturday, while trying to rally others to confront The Proud Boys, Hogan said someone confronted him: “‘Well,’” they asked, ‘why aren’t you over there?’”

“‘Because at this moment, I still have a job,’” he’d replied. “But you know if something goes down next month, I’ll be in the front of the other side. Because I hate those motherfuckers. That dude [who gave] me the finger? He’s gonna see me again.”       

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