Bahooka's Beloved Rufus Stays At New Restaurant, Supporter Says Plan Is Fishy

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Rufus the pacu fish (Photo by Emma Gallegos/LAist)

The drama over the future home of Bahooka's famous pacu fish Rufus has taken an unexpected turn. The owners of the building that once house the tiki restaurant Bahooka, who originally wanted Rufus out, told the Los Angeles Times that they now want to keep the fish to help decorate the restaurant.

They're also taking Rufus' age into account. "He's 37 years old already," Charles Ye, a spokesperson for the owners, told the Times. "We want to take care of him."

But Lynn Garrett of Hidden Los Angeles is claiming that they reversed their stance only after realizing that keeping Rufus would be a sound business decision due to the attention the beloved fish has received.

"When the press came and started talking to [the owner], they were asking if he was sure if he was going to get rid of this fish. And in his words, he realized the fish has value," Garrett told LAist.

Rufus became famous for greeting customers at Bahooka, a tiki restaurant that was a fixture in Rosemead for 46 years. When Bahooka closed down in March of last year, the fish sat in his tank, too old to be moved without the most careful of hands. Jorge Mastache, a former Bahooka employee, has been traveling from San Bernardino to feed Rufus and clean his tank, which has no filtration, Garrett said. The owners plan to open a Chinese restaurant in the building.

Since taking up Rufus' cause last week due to rumblings from the tiki community, Garrett has been a woman on a mission: she has called all across Southern California to try to find a home for the carrot-eating pacu fish. She eventually found another tiki-themed bar, Damon's in Glendale, who was willing to take Rufus in. She started a fundraiser and amassed over $2,700 from Rufus supporters. She even consulted with biologists from the California Science Center to find a way to move Rufus as gently and safely as possible.

The new owners want to build a larger, 2,079-gallon tank for Rufus (seven times the size of his current tank) in the middle of the new restaurant and fill it with other pacu. Garrett is claiming that the new owner still wanted the money that was raised on Rufus' behalf to help cover the cost of building that tank. When she refused, Garrett said, the owners accused her of not caring for the fish.

Ye told the L.A. Times that they are planning on starting a fundraiser of their own, claiming that they need an additional $6,000 to $12,000 in donations to create the new tank for Rufus. Mastache said that the other sea creatures in the building will be moved to the owner's home.

We reached out to the property owners for comment on Garrett's claims, but have yet to hear back.

As for the money, Garrett is talking to the donors to decide what to do with it. She told LAist that the fact that Rufus has a home is a positive thing, but she wonders what will happen to Rufus down the road.

"In six months down the road, when [the owner] realizes that he isn't interested in Rufus because he's not getting the same attention, then what happens to him?" Garrett said.

Related:
Bahooka’s Rufus the Fish is Probably Moving to Damon’s
Bahooka's Famous Fish Rufus Needs A New Home