Letter to the Editor


A Rude and Insolent Restaurant Owner

I need to share an incident that happened to me here in January that really bothered me. To be honest, it was shocking, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, I want your readers to know about it.

On Jan. 10, right around lunchtime, I visited the Elbow Room Bar & Grill restaurant at Fig Garden Village in central Fresno, and I was shocked when I was berated and verbally assaulted by Mike Shirinian, owner of the establishment.

I don’t know if Mike was having a bad day or what, but the experience was awful and very unpleasant. I couldn’t believe how anybody—much less the owner of a popular public restaurant—could be so insolent and rude to a guest as Mike was to me. I was truly dumbstruck and dumbfounded by his cocksure boorishness, and I just can’t get his caustic screaming and insults that he repeatedly hurled at me out of my head. Mike was belittling and embarrassing, even traumatizing.

“Get out, get out!” he screamed at me. “You aren’t worthy to be here—Get out!”

I think he also called me “stupid” or “really dumb” (or something like that) in between the “you aren’t worthy” yells and “get outs,” too. When he started screaming at me, things became a blur. It was a very triggering experience.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened since I was totally sideswiped by his overwhelming impudence. I remember walking in and talking with the nice, hospitable hostess. I told her that I was the director of advertising at the Community Alliance newspaper, as I showed her a copy of our January edition. I asked who I should talk with about placing an ad with us. She smiled and told me that it was good timing since the owner was in. She immediately offered to go get him. Great, I thought, how nice—a perfect time to introduce myself and maybe get a drink or a quick bite before my next appointment.

After a couple of minutes of waiting in the lobby, Mike walks up to me and starts yelling at me in front of his staff and other guests, screaming that it wasn’t a good time to stop by, and, before I could even get a word out, he begins to insult me, saying, “You aren’t worthy to be here,” over and over again.

He didn’t even give me a chance to say, “No problem” (which is what I actually said, but he couldn’t hear me over his histrionics), or that I really liked the Spicy Summer Nights tequila cocktail on the menu. How unfortunate.

Maybe he didn’t like the fact that I am associated with the Community Alliance newspaper, a well-known progressive print publication here in the Valley that supports social justice and the underrepresented populations in our community. After all, the front page of the January edition shows a picture of a local proud gay man and tells his story of being a victim of a hate crime in our community. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t “worthy” to be in Mike’s restaurant.

Or, maybe I wasn’t worthy to be in his restaurant because I don’t look like him. When you look at me, I myself may represent some of those underrepresented groups in our society that the paper supports. I have brown skin and a bountiful beard. Maybe that’s what Mike meant when he screamed that I wasn’t worthy.

Who knows?

Anyway, I mentioned this to a local friend who used to work at the Elbow Room, and she wasn’t surprised for a second. She told me, just imagine how he’d talk to you if you worked for him. Yikes. I don’t want to imagine. Instead, I want to imagine a place where I can enjoy good food and drinks all while being treated with respect—a place that respects both its guests and workers alike.

Is that too much to ask?

In fact, I want to imagine a place where the owner and his workers remind me that indeed I am “worthy” to be one of their guests when I visit their establishment.

You know, I’m not impressed with great food and drinks if I’m not “worthy” to enjoy it. Good business is about equality and respect. We should celebrate and promote businesses that feel the same way, Fresno!

I. smiley G. Calderon


  • I. smiley G. Calderon

    I. smiley G. Calderon is a Gen X Southern California Chicano now living in the Central Valley. A lifelong educator who spent a career in academia, he believes in building individual and collective human capital through the accessible application of education. Contact him at smileygcalderon@gmail.com.

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Gene Richards
Gene Richards
1 year ago

Looks like another restaurant we can avoid.

1 year ago

Similar thing happened to my husband and me there a few months ago. An obviously inebriated man was taking our photo and then videos of us without asking. It was very strange. We asked him to stop. He began yelling at us and told us to leave. We just sat there because we just thought he was some drunk guy – in a few minutes the server brought our food and we pointed him out and told her what had happened and she said that he actually was the owner!

She told us to stay. She came back after a few minutes and apologized on his behalf and said our meal was on the house.

Skip and Evelyn Howard
Skip and Evelyn Howard
1 year ago

Thanks for letting us know this place can be avoided.

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