ALERT: Wooden Nickel

Identity thief impersonating local publican, Tom Nickel

Back in 2009, I went to dinner at Azul La Jolla. Upon arrival, I provided my name to the hostess and was shown to my table. A minute later, the restaurant’s general manager and chef approached me and accused me of not being who I said I was. I presented them my business card, then my driver’s license. Then they said, “Well, you’re not the Brandon Hernández we cooked for a month ago.” Apparently, a much taller, portlier fellow with glasses had emailed the restaurant to set up a press sampling, then come in with a guest and worked his way through 14 courses that he asked to have comp’d. That wish was granted by the management, who were told the dinner would be the basis for an upcoming article.

The next night, Azul staffers ran into this schmuck at nearby tavern, Bull & Bear, drinking up a storm, dropping my name as his own and walking out on the bill. I was beside myself to hear my reputation was being ruined and worried there was nothing I’d be able to do about it. I got in touch with my editors at community newspaper, La Jolla Light, who I wrote for regularly back then, and they put out an article informing the community about the scam and showing people a photo of me so they’d know what I look like.

This weekend, I learned that an industry friend of mine is going through the same thing right now, when Tom Nickel, the owner of O’Brien’s Pub, West Coast BBQ & Brew, and the upcoming Nickel Beer Company, called to tell me someone is going around to bars wearing O’Brien’s logo attire, claiming to be him, then leaving without paying their tabs. The beers this guy has hit so far include Hunter Steakhouse in Oceanside, and McFadden's Downtown. For the record, this is the real Tom Nickel...

It makes me happy to be able to pay it forward and help with a situation that can be tough to reconcile without some help from the media. It seems like a little thing, but for those who've been in this position, it's a big deal. Feel free to share this around to help save other businesses from being victimized by this crook. To borrow a popular directive, if you see something, say something. Thanks and cheers to shutting down unscrupulous bottom-dwellers like this wooden Nickel.

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