Another Day at Chaffin's

A controversial restaurant owner is cited after a customer accuses him of lashing out

Once again, the owner of Chaffin's Family Restaurant finds himself in hot water over his alleged mistreatment of a patron--and this time, he was cited for disorderly conduct.

Customer Dave Brabec, who said he had chatted with James Edward Chaffin in the past about life philosophies, has accused Chaffin of losing his cool on Wednesday, Oct. 4, after asking Brabec's opinion on abortion.

"He asked me my opinion as I was paying my bill," Brabec recalled. "And I said, 'That's between a woman and God.' And he said, 'What about the hurt the fetus feels?' And I said, 'No one knows any of that. ... No one knows heaven and hell exist; no one knows that Jesus and the devil exist.' He (Chaffin) got up, and said, 'Get the hell out of my restaurant. Never come back here.'"

Brabec said Chaffin followed him outside, picked up a handful of gravel and threw it at him.

"I said, 'Everybody knows you're a bigot, and now you've proven it to me,'" Brabec continued. "He followed me out to my truck, and by now, he's frothing at the mouth, you know, foaming. He was spitting--spitting mad. And he stood there and said, 'If you ever fucking come back to my restaurant, I will kill you.'"

Brabec alleged that Chaffin challenged him to a fight as he was pulling his truck out of the parking lot. Instead, he went home and filed a report with the police.

Officer Dallas Wilson with Tucson Police Department confirmed Chaffin was cited and released for disorderly conduct, a class one misdemeanor. The police report, which had to be redacted before being given to the media, was not immediately available for review.

Chaffin referred calls about the incident to his lawyer, Reuben Emanuel, who said he was told by Chaffin that the fight started after Brabec took Chaffin to task for talking to a black man. Emanuel then asserted that Brabec told Chaffin he was a "low-class Jew" who was only interested in money.

"So you got some hollering and some screaming and some pushing and a little shoving, and yeah," Emanuel said. "I tell you, if it had been me, I would have broken his fucking back."

When asked if he was claiming that Chaffin never threatened Brabec's life, threw gravel at Brabec or kicked Brabec's truck, Emanuel said, "No, I'm not saying none of that happened. I'm saying this is what I was told, that this was what started it off. I know there was some pushing and shoving. About gravel, or who, when, where it was done and things like that--I don't know."

As for the topic of abortion, Emanuel told the Weekly that he doubted either man accurately remembers their conversation. But he also stopped short of saying Chaffin was innocent. "All I'm saying is it's very defensible," he said. "I don't know if you could say whether he was innocent."

Brabec denied he ever said anything about a black man: "See, what he's trying to do is build a case (against me)."

His account was largely corroborated by Gemma Madril, a waitress who had worked at Chaffin's Family Restaurant, 902 E. Broadway Blvd., for more than a year. Madril said the way some members of the Chaffin family treated her after she told police what happened forced her to quit.

"They were talking about me like I was some hypocrite, but I couldn't lie to authorities. I could get in trouble," she said.

Madril, who had been acquainted with Brabec for a while, didn't see him act provocatively as he was paying his bill, but did note that he's the kind of guy who gives his opinion freely. She said she had her back turned to the pair when all hell broke loose.

"All the sudden, I heard James say, 'Motherfucker, get out of here!'" Madril said.

She confirmed that Chaffin picked up a handful of pebbles outside and threw them at Brabec's back as he was leaving. Chaffin also kicked Brabec's truck, she alleged.

Madril described Chaffin as a moody sort who easily gets angry over matters of religion.

This is the second time this year that Chaffin has been accused of losing his temper at his restaurant. In February, customer Gary Rhine alleged that Chaffin and his daughter spewed insults at him after he chastised Chaffin over the way he treated a woman seeking employment ("One Day at Chaffin's," Currents, Feb. 23).

Rhine, who is a gay man, said Chaffin pushed him and called him a "faggot." News of what had allegedly transpired quickly traveled throughout the local LGBT community, prompting outrage from some.

Madril said she also witnessed the Rhine incident and was "appalled" at the way Chaffin had spoken to the woman who wanted an application.

"James has it to where if you're not on the same page he is about things, then he's going to get in your face about it," she said.

Court records show that Chaffin has been charged with a number of offenses since 2000, including two counts of disorderly conduct, one count of criminal damage and one count of assault. All were eventually dismissed, records show, with the exception of one count of disorderly conduct in 2002 for which Chaffin was found guilty.

Reuben Emanuel didn't address the 2002 disorderly conduct conviction when asked about it.

"It's always the same thing: Somebody comes up if they didn't like the food or whatever it is," he said. "Somebody's got a bitch and a gripe. Well, you know, if people come up to you one way, you know, you'll listen. If people come up to you real offensive-like, and they say, you know, 'Your food is shit. Your fucking restaurant sucks.' You know, there are people like this out there. They don't speak nicely like you do.

"What I'm telling you is that there are some people out there who are very difficult to handle, even as a lawyer. You deal with the public, and you see five, six people a day--10 people a day. You know, there are some very difficult personalities. The way most people handle them is that they pat them on the ass and are super nice and eat shit from some of them, and then walk away."

Emanuel said he didn't know how Chaffin deals with such difficult personalities, but he noted that "everybody has a limit."

Brabec told the Weekly he's reached his. This is an incident he's not going to let go with a simple "I'm sorry," he said.

"You know, I don't have a problem patronizing people's restaurants until something like this happens, because it proves to me that this is true," Brabec, who had heard about the February brouhaha, said. "Now this man has proven himself to me verbally and physically.

"I'm not letting it lay; I'm not taking any apology," Brabec said. "It's inexcusable. He's programmed to do this."

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