When Rani Ghanem sees an opportunity for Internet stardom, he takes it.
On Monday, the 21-year-old was working at his uncle’s Arcadia liquor store when a female peafowl, or peahen, strolled through the open front door and startled a customer.
Within minutes, an animal control officer arrived on site and set out to capture the wily bird. That’s when Ghanem whipped out his cellphone, hit record, and made the Royal Oaks Liquor Store a viral sensation.
For roughly six minutes, Ghanem recorded a slapstick battle of wits between man and beast, and the destruction of numerous bottles of alcohol.
Ever since then, customers have joked that the liquor store should change its name to something more bird-like, or post a “No Peacocks Welcome” sign, Ghanem said. One woman simply showed up to get a selfie with the clerk.
While peafowl are a common sight in Arcadia — one of the birds is emblazoned on the city seal and the creatures roam freely through the city — Ghanem and other locals can’t stop talking about the boozy peahen.
“I love telling this story,” Ghanem said Wednesday. “So many people are coming in. ‘Hey, I’ve seen you on the news. Are there any more birds in the store?’”
Ghanem said it all started when he was behind the counter and a woman walked in and asked him about the bird, he said.
“I get up around and I look. ‘Oh my God, there’s a peacock in the store. A peahen. It was just cruising between the aisles like it was shopping around or something,” Ghanem said.
Ghanem said he confronted the bird in the snack section, between the chips and candy.
When Ghanem tried to shoo it toward the exit, it jumped up and then flew next to the front door, where it landed on top of a portable freezer full of wine, he said.
The clerk then dialed 911 and repeated for the dispatcher twice that “yes,” there was indeed a bird in the store that he needed help capturing.
By the time an animal control officer with the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA arrived, the peahen had relocated to a higher shelf deeper in the store, where it was illuminated by a glowing Pabst Blue Ribbon sign. Its wings and feet were dangerously close to the priciest bottles of Champagne in the store.
In the video, posted on Youtube, the animal control officer can be seen poking and prodding at the bird in vain for more than three minutes trying to capture or move it.
“To me it looked like [the animal control officer] was scared. I didn’t blame him. The thing had some really sharp claws,” Ghanem said.
Then, without warning, the peahen swooped down onto shelves in the middle of the store.
“That’s where all the destruction happened,” Ghanem said with a hint of sadness.
About five minutes into the video, the peahen flapped her wings violently and bottles began to fall.
One of the first casualties was a bottle of the Big N Cabernet Sauvignon from Knights Valley, Ghanem said.
Then a $50 bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne shattered, followed by the Vueve Clicquot.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to take an account of the damages. In my heart I know it might’ve been more than $500,” Ghanem said. “Some of those bottles were in casing.”
With the damage piling up, the wine pooling on the floor and the situation going nowhere fast, Ghanem had the animal control officer trap the bird in his net so he could grab it and carry it out of the store.
Once it was released in the parking lot, it simply walked away, officials said.
After the situation was handled, Ghanem had to break the news to his uncle.
“I had to repeat myself a couple of times,” he chuckled. “It got to the point where he didn’t believe me. So I said, ‘You know what, just look at the news later.’”
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