Oakland Persian Knights owner moves away after robberies
In 2017, Alameda resident Emir Asli and his girlfriend were having a glass of wine around midnight outside Pachisos—a Mediterranean buffet he opened in 2007 on Grand Avenue across the street from Children’s Imagination Land—when he approached them. young man.
“May I use your bathroom?” Asked.
Aslı replied, “Sorry, the restaurant is closed.”
The man said he needed to go urgently, and offered to pay $20. Aslı, who refused to pay, waved the man in. When the young man returned, he thanked Asli and walked away.
But when Asli’s friend went to use the bathroom shortly after, he heard her screaming for help. The bathroom was on fire.
Firefighters quickly reached Pachesos and quickly put out the flames. Officers from the Oakland Police Department also went out to get a statement from Asli and his girlfriend.
About an hour after the fire was put out, Asli and a police officer stayed outside the restaurant to chat. Out of the corner of his eye, Aslı noticed a man staring at them from a car parked across the street. Suspecting something was wrong, Aslı informed the officer who called for backup.
The reserve officer arrived, removed the man from the parked car, and brought him to the restaurant. It was the same guy who asked to use the bathroom. According to Asli, he confessed to setting the bathroom on fire.
“He basically wanted to see the place go up in flames,” Asli said. “He took toilet seat covers, made a ball out of it, put it under the toilet paper[dispenser]and set it on fire. It took about two or three minutes for everything to catch fire.”
Several months later, Asli said, the young man’s grandmother came to the restaurant to apologize. He decided not to press charges.
“I felt that this child really needs help, and he will not find it in jail or prison,” he said.
Since then, Asli said, running the restaurant has become more difficult.
Dealing with burglaries, burglary and arson
The buffet closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it wasn’t until almost two years later that Asli and business partner Farshad Moradi reopened it as a sit-down restaurant with a new name – Persian Nights at Pachesos – and a revamped dinner menu centered around Persian cuisine. Asli also retained ownership of the coffee shop next door, 1888 Coffee Station, which he opened in 2017.
According to Asli, his business has been broken into 13 times since 2018, including five break-ins this year alone. During one robbery this year, three masked men, armed with handguns, used crowbars to open the entrance to the café, broke the internal security alarm system, and stole an undisclosed amount of cash from the safe.
About three months after that incident, a friend called Asli after they saw flames in the Persian Nights courtyard. It appears that the restaurant has once again caught fire. No investigation has been conducted into the causes of the fire, according to Asli.
“If the fire department had not arrived earlier – if they had only arrived five minutes later – the business would have been a mess,” he said.
The Persian Knights’ brand-new mahogany doors, which Asli installed less than eight months ago, also suffered damage from several attempted burglaries.
As break-ins and burglaries became more common, Asley stopped calling 911 and reporting incidents to the Oakland Police Department—partly due to slow response times, but also because he feared a spike in crime reported in the neighborhood would trigger an insurance. Carriers to increase prices for his own small businesses and others in the area. He said he also stopped submitting claims to his commercial insurance company, for fear of being refused renewal of his policy.
“Once this is reported, I won’t even be able to get insurance, and if I don’t have insurance, I won’t be able to work,” he said. “It’s a sad point, but it’s the truth. The truth is, there’s nothing we can do.”
Without the help of insurance, Asli estimates future repairs could cost $10,000 to $15,000 out of pocket. But in addition to the financial burden, the break-ins also affected Asli’s mental health.
He said, “The day after the salary withdrawal, I sat in front of the restaurant and watched the surveillance cameras, waiting for a car to pass with armed men inside to rob us.”
About two weeks ago, Asli Almutab decided to relinquish ownership of Persian Nights to Moradi, a business partner with whom he reopened the restaurant in 2022. The core restaurant will continue to serve authentic Mediterranean fare, such as tahdaj (crispy Persian rice). , Ghormeh Sabzi (Iranian Herb Soup), and Lollipop Lamb Chops – under new management.
“He has fresh blood and more energy than me,” Asli said, referring to the new owner of “Persian Nights.” “But for me, as a seasoned restaurateur, I’m just done with it. No matter how much you love what you do, you have to make that decision.”
26 years serving Persian food in Berkeley and Oakland
Asli first launched Bacheesos as a family-run restaurant in 1997 on Dwight Way Street and San Pablo Street in southwest Berkeley. He said it quickly grew in popularity, thanks to its offering of organic produce, reasonable prices, and a plethora of healthy vegan and gluten-free options. Although Asli described the surrounding neighborhood at the original site as “difficult,” Pachisos thrived.
Ten years later, the restaurant’s location opened in Oakland, with locals and visitors raving about its endless mimosas, weekend brunch menu, and classic Persian dishes. In October 2019, the original Berkeley location closed, but the Oakland institution has thrived with new and returning clients.
Asli’s recent experiences with break-ins and other security issues have become very popular among longtime small business owners in Oakland, according to Shari Godinez, executive director of the Koreatown Northgate Community District. She said community members in her area have seen a rise in commercial robberies and vehicle thefts in recent months.
“It makes people not want to go out,” Godinez said. “So, even though the peak of the coronavirus is over, now people are not willing to go out anymore because of crime.”
In her conversations with local business owners, Godinez said, many of them reported that their sales had fallen by half compared to pre-pandemic levels. And as small businesses continue to lose customers — along with dwindling traffic along what used to be busy trade corridors — business owners are often forced to make a difficult choice: stay or go.
‘There needs to be a more comprehensive approach’
Many members of the community — including Nigel Jones, owner of Kingston 11 Cuisine and Calabash, located in uptown Oakland about half a mile from the Persian Nights — believe public safety should be addressed holistically rather than at a superficial level. He said that crime does not happen in a vacuum. This is manifested as a result of “privation and lack of support and resources”.
“We need to start reinvesting in young people and not just throw everyone in jail. That won’t solve any problems. It will create more people going through the criminal justice system,” he said.
Going forward, Jones said he hopes small business owners, law enforcement, city officials, and residents can put political differences aside and work collectively to address broader issues of public health, youth violence prevention, and economic sustainability.
Jones added: “We have to stay away from all rhetoric and accusations, because everything that prevents us from finding solutions.” “There needs to be a more comprehensive approach.”
As for Aslı, he will continue to own and operate the café (which also has a delicious Mediterranean bistro) next to Farsi Nights, along with Pachisos, which is now a catering company. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t worried about giving up the restaurant. He says it took years of crime, heartache and reflection for him to relinquish ownership of the Adams Point buffet he opened 16 years ago.
“It’s sad because Oakland has so much potential,” Asli said. “The more Oakland finds a way to protect these companies, the better Oakland will be.”