Elbow Room Café's famous sarcasm may have sparked pepper-spray attack

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      A patron of a diner known for its caustic sensibilities may not have gotten the establishment's campy humour.

      Cook Daljit Lalli, who has worked at the Elbow Room Café for 11 years, told the Georgia Straight in an interview at the restaurant that around 10:15 a.m. on July 19, a man entered the café, stood near the doorway, and sprayed the air with what turned out to be pepper spray. The spray was not directed at any specific individual. The man then fled on foot.

      "We get a smell right away, right?" she said. "And we get coughing and we run outside and we tell our customers 'Get out fast!' and they run out and everyone has their eyes hurting and can't breathe."

      She said about 15 people plus three staff members were in the restaurant at the time.

      According to Vancouver Police Department (VPD) media-relations officer Jason Robillard, about 10 to 15 people had to be treated by the VPD, B.C. Ambulance Service, and Vancouver Fire at the scene. No one was hospitalized.

      Police are still searching for the suspect, who is described as a tall, white or South Asian male with a slim build. At the time, he was wearing sunglasses, a hooded sweatshirt, shorts, and a bandana covering his face.  

      The VPD stated that the motivation for the attack is unknown and the investigating officers do not believe it to be hate motivated. However, they added that the suspect appears to be an unhappy patron from the day before.

      Lalli said that on July 18, one of their servers mentioned to her that he had a customer who seemed to have felt insulted during their interaction. The server told her "The guy, he's going to kill me."

      She said she told the waiter not to worry about it and that perhaps the customer was just joking.

      "This is a restaurant for insult, right, so they shouldn't be here," Lalli said of the customer.

      A sign on the window states "In the event of a lineup please give your name to the hostess inside. Leave your bad attitude outside!"

      Craig Takeuchi

      The menu, which is also rife with humour, declares "Food and service is our name, abuse is our game!" and lists a number of "rules" about service that convey their humorous and unconventional approach.

      Dishes include items such as the Elbow Room's World Famous Big Ass Pancakes, the Mr. Nelson country-style breakfast ("He loves his meat"), the Rocky Five (Not the Movie) eggs benedict, "I Have No Imagination" omelettes, and the Tom Selleck burger.

      In fact, the eatery even adapted its story into a stageplay. After four years of development, Elbow Room Café: the Musical debuted in March at the Cultch's York Theatre.

      The restaurant was launched by married same-sex couple Patrick Savoie and Brian Searle in 1983 and was located at 720 Jervis Street in Coal Harbour before relocating to the Davie Street location near Yaletown and not far from the West End.

      "We've never had a problem," Lalli said. The restaurant has resumed business as usual.