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New owners see light; Rufus the carrot-eating pacu to stay at former Bahooka

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Rufus, the giant Pacu, entertained visitors to Bahooka for more than 35 years, until the restaurant closed in 2013. Damon's in Glendale is exploring adopting Rufus, but it's a big undertaking.
John Rabe
Rufus, the giant Pacu, entertained visitors to Bahooka for more than 35 years, until the restaurant closed in 2013.

Media attention helps Rufus's current owners see that he could be the star of their new Chinese restaurant; friends of Damon's disappointed.

If you've been following the story of Rufus the pacu and the efforts to find him a new home, then you'll want to know about a major update Monday.

But first, to bring you up to speed ... Rufus is a 37-year old pacu, a relative of the piranha, except instead of eating people, he ate carrots in his tank at Bahooka, the tiki restaurant in Rosemead. He was the restaurant's mascot, a sentimental favorite.

Whenthe restaurant closed last March, his fans were worried. Where would he go? Where could he go? It's not like you can just truck around a fish that old, who has never been out of his tank. But the new owners of Bahooka, who wanted to turn it into a Chinese restaurant, wanted Rufus out, and this weekend, we reported that it was 95 percent sure that Rufus would be moved to Damon's, the venerable tiki-themed restaurant in Glendale, through the hard work and fundraising of HiddenLA.

But yesterday, HiddenLA's Lynn Garrett posted a melancholy note on Facebook:

Hey guys. So, I'm sitting here at Damon's, drinking a sad mai tai. It's sad because we had a meeting with the people leasing Bahooka today, and although a week ago they wanted Rufus The Fish out in a week, the press attention changed their minds. Rufus is safe and will stay in the same place, and we're trying to focus on that.

So, instead of undergoing the rigors of moving, which could well kill him, Rufus will once again be the center of attention. As reported in the LA Times:

Charles Ye, a spokesman for the owners, said they decided to keep Rufus to help decorate the restaurant. They also feared moving him would be harmful to his health. "He's 37 years old already," Ye said. "We want to take care of him."

The owners are reportedly fundraising to build Rufus a huge new tank, and bring in a few more pacu to keep him company. But meantime, Garrett says she's not abandoning the idea of bringing him to Glendale, just shelving it.

If they change their mind again when the dust settles, we will still be very happy to buy Rufus. We will still be happy to pick up the phone and arrange his move. Also, we ADORE Damon's in Glendale and hope you will support their business for going through all of this brouhaha over a carrot-eating fish. If the opportunity arises, Rufus has a home there.

If you donated to HiddenLA to help with the move, Garrett says they're trying to figure out how to handle the money that came in.

Let's close with a toast to Rufus, possibly the world's most popular piranha.

(LA Magazine's Chris Nichols, at Bahooka before it closed in March of 2013. Credit: John Rabe)

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