When the Bahooka tiki restaurant in Rosemead closed in March 2013, there was one burning question on longtime patrons' minds: what would happen to Rufus, the enormous, elderly, carrot-eating Pacu fish who welcomed guests from his tank beside the cash register?
Rufus' fate has been subject of a Column One Los Angeles Times article, an online "let's move Rufus" campaign and much chatter in the Tiki community. Earlier this year, the property's current owner, Alan Zhu, declared his intention to keep Rufus in the new Chinese restaurant and to move him to a larger tank.
But a visit on May 5, 2014 revealed an empty, gutted Bahooka with no sign of Rufus or any fish tanks.
Contentious recent discussions on the Tiki Central message board include the claim, supposedly made by a former Bahooka kitchen staff member, that Rufus has been released into a koi pond in Long Beach.
We do not know if this is true. We sincerely hope it is not, as such a transition would certainly prove fatal to Rufus, a warm-water fish.
Our question to Alan Zhu, owner of the Bahooka property and Rufus: Where's Rufus? Unless you provide Proof of Life — a photograph of Rufus with today's newspaper — we can only assume the worst.
* UPDATE: 5/6/14: L.A. Times reporter Frank Shyong tweets: "Alan tells me that Rufus is in a pond at his house, and indeed, alive. What evidence is there that Alan is lying…". We replied pointing out that Pacu fish require tropical temperatures, and asking him to see Rufus and confirm his condition. There was no response to this request.
Stay informed about the search for Rufus on the Tiki Central message board.
Please use these hashtags in social media to help raise awareness that Rufus is MIA: #saverufus #wheresrufus #rufusProofOfLife
UPDATE 2/2/15: Things have been pretty quiet around the old Bahooka restaurant since last May, when we shot video of the gutted interior.
Without any facts to chew on, speculation about the fate of dear Rufus the Pacu Fish eventually settled down to a simmer, followed by some gallows humor, and grumbling that funds donated for his safe transfer to Damon's in Glendale were never refunded.
Today, we drove by Bahooka and noticed the doors were open. Taped to the ubiquitous realtor's sign was a newly-posted application to sell liquor on the premises, on behalf of an entity called Moonlight Bar, Inc.
This is a new corporation formed in November, and the agent of record is Chao Ye. And indeed, inside the cavernous space with its newly-framed walls and overhangs, a couple of guys on painters' stilts were touching up the ceiling. A new restaurant certainly looks to be coming soon. You can see photos from our visit here.
Does this mean that Alan Zhu–the restaurateur who clung fast to Rufus once he realized the fish was famous, removed him from the premises under mysterious circumstances and has refused to provide proof that this delicate, elderly creature survived this move–is no longer in the picture? If so, will we ever know what happened to Rufus?
Last May, L.A. Times reporter Frank Shyong spoke to Alan Zhu and was assured that Rufus was in a pond at his house. If you would like Frank to follow up and ask again: "Where's Rufus?" you can tweet at him @frankshyong or email him here.
Please share this link and use these hashtags in social media to help raise awareness that Rufus is still MIA: #saverufus #wheresrufus #rufusProofOfLife