“Love is the devotion to the well-being of others without regard to the cost.”
The day started with disappointment, it was about 20 minutes before 4pm when we noticed that we had lost 9 reservations for the night, 9! People never tell you why they cancel, but we had a good idea of why. The last two days had been pretty wet, but today everything was beautiful and warm. At least that was our reasoning for all the cancellations. To be more exact we lost exactly 27 guests that night, about half of our business going into the night. To be even more exact, if our average Guest spends an average of $60 per visit, then this meant that we had just lost $1,620 before even opening our doors, roughly about what we spend in payroll for a day.
Sometime around 5:10pm
I am standing outside on the patio with one of my employees having a casual check-in, as I had noticed something appeared off in their usual cheery personality. As we are talking briefly about life outside of work, a man, shirtless holding what appears to be some sort of object with a handle, approaches the restaurant. Immediately, I asked her to go inside. The man seems to be going through what we around here have come to describe as an “episode". He locks eyes with me, I shake my head, as he proceeds to walk on to the patio deck and begins to fumble around with our planters. “What's up brother, are you good? You need some water?” . He doesn’t answer.
“Alright man, I need you to keep going, I can’t have you on this deck disturbing our space”.
He still doesn’t answer.
He pulls out a chair and pushes over a table. At this point, I turn back to the restaurant and notice that 3 of my employees are standing by watching. I tell them to stay inside. He circles around a bit more, but eventually he just walks off. I look at Manny, Ernesto, and Mae, give them the thumbs up.
I stand outside a bit longer as I make a record of his description just in case he comes back. Sure enough, before I am done typing I see him circling back from the end of the street, once again holding what I now notice is to be simply a long-nose lighter. Oooof, not good but better. As he gets closer, I stand by the door, asking him again to walk away. He doesn’t listen, instead he comes about 6 inches from me, and begins threatening to “fuck me up”. I take a step back, stand firmly to give him space, aware of what might happen next. This is a shirtless/shoeless man taller than I am, therefore my first move will be to disable him should he take the first strike. Knee-caps seem like a last resort on someone going through an episode, so instead I'll start with stomping on his toes, followed by a blow to the solar plexor, and two palms to his ears. 1,2,3, combo, quick as flash.
Again, all of this is if he strikes first. At this point, I am still trying to find an angle to deescalate whatever he is going through.
I backed away, kept asking him to keep moving, my tone had changed at this point. Eventually, he got the hint and stepped away. As soon as he was far enough from me, I called our private security. 20 minutes later they showed. Another day on the “blocks'' as we have learned to call it around here. This doesn't happen very often, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't happen.
Nothing surprises me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it still scares me, but it doesn’t surprise me. Despite what I just described, the last thing I want is to traumatize our staff and truly have to get into a physical altercation before, during, or after service. When our security finally arrived they apologized for the delay. We all know each other by now, most of that team has become an extension of our family. I happen to really like our security service. Echelon Security has been a god-sent. I mean that, not just for us on this block but throughout this neighborhood. If the name sounds familiar it is because you probably read the story about them in the NY TImes last week. They are great at what they do, peacefully and strategically deescalating situations like the one I described above. You are probably wondering, why didn’t I just do what they do? I mean, I try, but that’s not really what my job is. Also, most of these dudes are all between 6’1- 6’4 and built like tanks. People don’t fuck around with these guys. But despite their build and stature what comes across most about them is their compassionate approach vs what I’ve personally seen from other companies. This is why they are always my first call vs our local police. Also, this is in no way a knock on our Police, but have you tried to call the police lately? A few weeks ago, I waited on hold for 5 minutes, and waited 10 more for a squad car to eventually show up. This was after I had a person who was going through an “episode” swing a machete at me. The only reason why I didn’t call Echelon was because it happened during my walk along the park blocks, which is not part of their coverage.
So there we were, the boys from Echelon, and our team, which was still a little shook up.
Sergeant Evans, who happens to be the person in charge of it all, apologized profusely for his delay, telling me he was having one of those days. “Tough day you say? You know what can fix that, a nice cold one at the end of your shift”. He smiled and said, I promise I'll try to make it out.
By 6pm my job was done.
I went upstairs to my office to follow up on some of my daily tasks. A few minutes later my dear friend Seiji showed up. “You are not here”, his message said. I quickly remembered that I had invited him over to check out all of the work we had done at Comala, including the new menu. I shut my laptop, drank a bottle of gatorade, looked at my apron and thought “If I put this thing on, I will be finding things to do around the restaurant”. And so I left it off, knowing that I was truly done for the day. I walked back downstairs, poured Seiji a ½ oz shot of Agua del Sol (Mezcal), and poured myself the same. As always, I was happy to see him, despite him grilling me about the Hawaiian shirt I was wearing in the middle of October. I simply told him that my shirt reflected my mood for the rest of the day.
A few minutes later he headed out. Not long after, I watched as my friend Sgt. Evans walked in the door, and sat next to me for a cold one as he had promised. This was a little after 7pm. We had a great conversation, we talked about the optimism for change in the neighborhood, raised a glass to the possibility of one day soon walking through the middle of the NW Park Blocks and simply enjoying the calm without all of the madness that currently surrounds us.
We started talking about protection, more specifically guns. He asked me if I had considered carrying a concealed weapon. I told him how much I hated guns in theory, he urged me to take him up on his offer to train me. I told him I’d rather have him practice choke holds and pepper spray on me in hopes of improving my tolerance than to carry a gun. We had a good laugh and moved on.
It’s 8pm now. I was still sitting on the same stool as I watched as my dear friend Noah Jacobs walk in the door. For those not familiar, Noah is the person behind Jacob & Sons, which if you follow social media you know that it recently ceased to operate. It’s been a rough few weeks for this man, but you wouldn’t know it from his energy. Within a few days of making that tough decision he went on to become the Director of Food Sales for Zupan’s, just like that. Nothing keeps a good man down, and I love him for that.
So there we are, now the 3 of us just hanging out, talking about life & the situation in Palestine, fortunately for everyone, Noah is well versed on the topic. It was a tough conversation, but I was incredibly appreciative for it.
Sgt. Evans calls it a night. He made a joke about having to go home and type of incident reports “thanks for the extra work”. We all laughed. It’s now 10:22
I am exactly 2 drinks in, and ask Madison to make me something NA (Non-Alcoholic) . Nowadays, my body feels it the next day. I cannot hang anymore, which is why I keep bottles of Gatorade everywhere around me. As Noah and I sat there, talking life and celebrating his new gig, I noticed two of our former employees standing on the deck. We watch as we see one of them having a hard time keeping his balance. The other is looking around awkwardly, as if he is trying to find something or someone. And then it hits me. I think back to our last interaction which was via text a few weeks before.
For context I will tell you why I reached out to him in the first place.
One of our current employees, pulled me aside during service and asked me if I could reach out to this man “Poncho” to ask that he stop contacting her about coming to work for him. She mentions how much she respects him, but has already told him more than one time that she had no interest. Apparently, every time she has done that, he has followed it up with comments about our business being a “sinking ship” and other random comments that are not so much rumors but “drunk talk”. So despite her ignoring it she just doesn’t want to be bothered anymore.
And so I messaged him after our meeting:
Me: Brother, do me a favor and please do not contact my team. It is a failure of respect and professionalism Poncho: I don’t know what the fuck you are talking about, don’t call me brother, we are nothing. Better calm down, I have not messed with you, got it, thanks
Me: Calm down Poncho, you are very valiant right now over text. I am asking you this in good spirits, if you would rather have me tell you in person I can come to you. Leti is in a good place, please do not disturb my team.
Poncho: No shit… you better watch your tone Angel, I am a bad motherfucker, and if you want to get a beat-down tell me…I will come to you. I don’t fuck around. And as far as Leti goes, I have not seen her, but if you want to get fucked up, tell me. And you better stand down because you don’t know me and what I am capable of “bro”. I am asking you not to fucking bother me, otherwise if I see you, I am not responsible for what happens. I am going to bring Roberto along, because he hates you too.
Me: So brave and so angry, the young man. LOL. Calm down King, I am telling you in good spirits, I know your mentor never taught you about the non-written ethics and rules, it doesn't surprise me. You know you’ve called her for help before, please do not act as the victim. In the end, I'm not about threats, if you like I can meet you before or after your service and we can settle this however you wish. You can call your cousin, your uncle, your business partner… if that is what you want, but I am reaching out to you with respect. But if your way of settling things is with fists or gloves, we can go at it. But stop talking about it.
That was it. That’s what he and his people have called the “provocation”. The justification for what was to happen next.
I kept watching as some of the women in our staff approached him to say hello, including my partner Olivia who had just arrived from a long day at Republica. Mae was one of the people trying to speak to him, but he wasn’t making much sense. Our Sous-Chef Leti, saw him outside and when she went to greet him he simply called her “Pinche basura”. (fucking trash), and so she ran back inside as confused as one could be. The last set of chairs were brought in from the patio, and Olivia and Mae locked the doors and stood inside.
At that same moment, he spotted me inside the bar. When he did, he banged on the glass and began to signal for me to come out. My first comment watching him stumble around with “crazy eyes” was “Madison, can you please call Echelon?” And so she did, this was at:
Real quickly, she provided the location and description of the incident which at the moment was just ”we have two people that are pretty intoxicated trying to come into our business.” It took a minute or so to say all that. As I watched him taunting me, signaling me to come out, doing the “throat slash” sign with one hand while tapping his knife with the other, I looked at my good friend, Noah and simply said “I need to get out there”, to which he said, “No. Don’t bother, they are drunk, let them pass out”.
About 30 seconds later they came to the door, at this point Olivia and Madison were standing in front of it, with their backs to both of them as Poncho was pulling on the door handle and violently tapping on the glass. Every second they become more intense. He pulled and pulled, becoming angrier and angrier making stupid crazy drunk violent threats. “Pinches viejas culeras. Ahorita que entremos no las vamos a cojer una por una”. (Stupid fucking women. As soon we get in we are going to fuck you one by one).
His next move was to pick up the A-frame sign outside and toss it against our front window, which fortunately is made from plexiglass. At this very moment, I asked everyone to go inside and away from the door, everyone was confused by it all. Immediately I contacted his business partner, who happens to be our old business partner Chef Lauro Romero.
10:27pm the first call. 10:29pm the second call.
Me: Man, you need to talk to your boy, he’s out here threatening our staff outside of De Noche. Lauro: What? Who?
Lauro: What? Why?
Me: Because he’s a fucking drunk idiot. You need to call him up right now before this gets worse.
Lauro: Wait? Why is this my problem? I’m at home. You guys need to figure this shit out on your own and leave me out of it. Me: What?!?!? Are you fucking kidding me. He is out here flashing his knife and making threats at the staff.
Lauro: I hear you man. (pause) thats fucked up. Okay, let me see what I can do. That was my first contact with him. Didn’t hear from him after that. I looked at our staff, everyone was shook up. To give you more context, Poncho wasn’t just some drunk that showed up at our doors. Poncho had his first break at Republica, and eventually we rewarded his work by opening up a Taqueria which was called… “Los Ponchos”. When Los Ponchos didn’t work out, we switched the concept to De Noche, which truly was his first big project under the title of Executive Chef. He was a big part of the foundation of De Noche and we were heartbroken when he left, but could not fault him for wanting to follow in the steps of his Mentor, our former business partner Chef Lauro.
Poncho had been back on a number of occasions, every time I saw him, we greeted each other with hugs and embraces, this is not an exaggeration this happened many times. You can ask that staff that underwent this entire experience and they will tell you that my words to both of them as this was happening were “what are you two doing? You are like family to everyone here, why are you doing this?”
I must have said that 4-5 times as they kicked and pushed on the door. You don’t have to believe me, you simply have to ask my staff. They were incoherent. I cannot say whether drugs had anything to do with this, but as one of our employees said “his eyes were so scary. Like a person trying to scare you, but worst”.
Eventually, they left. A few minutes later, Echelon showed up and wrote up an incident report.
That same night, I documented there actions, reached out to Dame Collective and anyone who had a connection to the owner, but understandably so, I didn’t get a response.
The next day, I spoke with our staff. Everyone pretty shook up about things. One employee in particular asked what we would have done if he would have broken the glass and continued. I told them that on a matter this complicated there wasn’t any other way BUT to do what we did.
They accepted it and understood that it was incredibly strange, knowing that one minute half of our staff had gone out to greet him, the next minute he was throwing our frame at the window!
I agreed, entirely.
As the conversation continued, I let everyone involved know of where we stood on the matter. The first, is that we were going to make sure Dame Collective was aware of what had taken place in hopes of giving them enough time to process everything and hopefully make a statement. Our team requested that this individual should face major consequences but understood that their group needed to gather a lot of information before they can truly make a decision on this matter. However what was more important to us was for Clandestino as well as the rest of the Dame ownership to make a statement condemning the allegations of this individual as well as the acts of SA violence.
That’s what we asked for.
Let me be clear, as one of the owners, I had NO INTENTIONS on not making this public.
We were going to be respectful of the details. We were going to be respectful of the outcome, but we were NOT going to be silent about what happened.
There was never an outcome were Republica & Co. and Dame Collective reached an “agreement" to keep this from coming to the surface. This was never an option on the table. Friday Afternoon. We had a conversation with Chef Lauro, at this point his tone had changed. To be perfectly fair, he was asleep when we woke him the night before, I am not sure how me or most people would have handled that same call of distress given the circumstances. The call started off well. We provided him with details, he denounced his partners actions and verbally expressed his frustrations. Everything felt productive, until it wasn't. In closing, we simply asked him to give us an idea of what his plan was, the answer was something that sounded like a slap on the wrist for having a bad night. Me: “I hear you brother. But unfortunately, that’s not going to work for us. What we want is for you to denounce this publicly, just for starters. Having what you call a “serious”conversation just isn’t enough” Lauro: “Look man, I get it. But to be honest, this would have never happened if you guys would have just settled to meet somewhere and thrown some “chingasos”.
Me: Dawg… you’ve been on your own for a fucking year now. These are the things that you and I butted heads about. It wasn’t often, but when it happened it was because of this. I’m going to give you another shot and ask you again; Chef, if this was the other way around, and I showed up drunk at your establishment and threatened violence on ANYONE from your staff, what would you want done? Lauro: “The truth. If I can be honest for a second. I would look inwards and think to myself, what did I do to provoke this”
Me: I am sorry, what??? Lauro: Yeah, you asked for my honest opinion.
Me: Are you fucking serious? You want us to look inwards and see what we did to have provoked this? Lauro: I’m sorry you don’t like the answer. Angel: (pause) You are an idiot. (hung up). Don’t believe me. Well, ask the people that were present. I am telling you all of this, because this was our story from the go. When we said we didn't call the police we stated why, but it didn't mean that we didn't take the appropriate actions. We didn't call the police because we wanted to make sure that this person was spoken to by someone who we knew had a lot more compassion than our local law enforcement. Something that everyone in our staff is trained to do.
Many of you, however, chose to blame us for not being accountable for our own actions. Many of you just needed some sort of thing to condemn us for.
You thought we would be stupid enough NOT to keep receipts after all we've been through in the last year?
You don't think we would have called our own security and ask them to please provide us with an incident report?
You can call them yourself and ask them if the information is available. By all means, do it. You just didn't wait for the entire story. You chose to condemn us before you condemned them. Some of you even made comments in your own circle, which came back to us, about "you don't know the other side of the story, you don't know what Angel said to provoke him".... That was your justification! I am showing you screenshot of exactly what our exchange was. Maybe you would have done it better, but in this case would anything I could have said to him justify his actions? Ask yourself that question. Many of you, chose to remain quiet on this matter, because you thought that this should have been something that was worked out behind closed doors. You accused us of "dividing the community" or even told yourself that you did not want to take sides because you felt that this should have been a private matter. In other words, you wanted us to be like the Catholic Church or better yet the Portland Thorns and maybe work it out privately without harming "anyone" including the individual who had a lapse in judgement. "he has such a bright future ahead of him". Never mind the next victims. What would have happened if we would have buried this incident to protect him and it resurfaced 1 year, 3 years, 5 years down the line? This is how we think. This is who we are. Shame on all of you for attempting to disregard this incident as a way of showing solidarity to your entire "Portland foodie community". You can hate us. You can hate our ownership. But before you can do that you first have to denounce what we have brought to the table.
But this isn't the end... Friday Night.
Lauro, Poncho and a number of people in their circle went out for drinks to celebrate Chef Poncho’s birthday. From what we gathered from Instagram stories, it was a good time!
I guess his remorse for our team wasn't enough to stop the party.
You think that's bad? Go back and read their awful PR piece, in which they fail to denounce any of this mans actions or state whether or not he will face consequences.
I am not kidding. Even the owner of Dame Collective herself, assured the women involved with this incident that she was going to do the right thing and close for the next few days.
She was going to have to cancel SO MANY reservations and figure it out. LOL. If you are reading this right now, you can drive by their establishment and see the large production crew shooting what appears to be some sort of music video. I am not making this up! Go look! Like that old saying goes "boys will be boys."