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Shirinian Quits as Brand Advisor: I Don't Think He is a Good Leader
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 years ago on
May 5, 2020

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Fed up with the way Mayor Lee Brand announced his shelter-in-place extension, restaurateur Mike Shirinian resigned from Brand’s advisory committee in dramatic fashion on Friday — live on Ray Appleton’s show on KMJ radio.

Shirinian, owner of The Elbow Room in Fresno and Riley’s Brew Pub in Clovis, was one of 20-plus members of Brand’s Fresno Recovery Advisory Committee. The group, made up of elected officials, business leaders, and members of the health community, was created to provide Brand advice on how to reopen the city’s commerce.

“It was beyond deceptive on his part not to bring the advisory committee into the loop on the fact that he was going to extend the shelter,” Shirinian told GV Wire.

The group met twice last week via Zoom teleconference. One of the first actions was to allow pet groomers to resume business. But, Shirinian said Brand’s announcement to extend the city’s shelter order through May 31 was never discussed.

“Mike is a longtime friend and sometimes friends disagree. We’ll miss his voice on my Recovery Committee, but thankfully, the local restaurant industry will be ably represented by Lorraine Salazar,” Brand responded.

Shirinian Supported Brand, But Not Anymore

“I like Lee Brand as a human being. I don’t like him as a leader of the city. In point of fact, I don’t think he’s a good leader.”Elbow Room owner Mike Shirinian

Shirinian supported Brand for mayor in the past. His restaurant contributed $1,250 to his 2016 campaign and $2,100 when Brand considered a 2020 reelection run.

“I like Lee Brand as a human being. I don’t like him as a leader of the city. Point of fact, I don’t think he’s a good leader,” Shirinian said.

Shirinian praised Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer, and former Fresno councilman and Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea — who ran against Brand in 2016. Both served with Shirinian on the committee.

Calling in to KMJ

Hours after Brand’s announcement, Shirinian had enough.

“I was really, really upset Friday because I felt like I’d been on this committee, we’ve had five hours’ worth of video conferencing and probably got 50 phone calls among all of us over the course of a week. And then we get blindsided like this,” Shirinian said.

With Brand scheduled to be a guest on Appleton’s show at noon Friday, Shirinian arranged for an appearance during the 11 a.m. hour announcing his resignation.

He called the committee a sham — designed to give Brand political cover and to place the heat on other people.

Shirinian said he emailed Brand about his resignation before he went on the radio.

Open Business Up

Shirinian’s advice to the mayor: “Open them all up.”

“It’s ridiculous to think that these businesses can’t handle it because they can,” Shirinian said. “This whole thing is a debacle.”

When it comes to his restaurants, “we have a plan. We’re waiting on the governor …  there’s no clarity. So this is kind of like treading water every day,” Shirinian said.

Shirinian says he laid off 120 workers. He knows that opening requires social distancing.

“Opening 50 percent just means we’re all going to lose a little less money,” Shirinian said.

Arias: ‘I Appreciate His Frustration’

City Council President Miguel Arias, who also serves on Brand’s committee, praised the legwork Shirinian performed for the committee.

“I appreciate his frustration, but we’re required to follow state orders and to listen to the feedback and advice of our public health officials,” Arias said. “I know in the private sector that they’re not used to dealing with a slower pace.”

[Update 5/05/2020: This story has been updated to include Mayor Lee Brand’s reaction, sent after the story was first published.]

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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