When business partners and first-time restaurant owners Ann Zyburra and Adam Sanchez reopened the historical Milias Restaurant in Gilroy, California, they knew challenges would follow — such is the nature of the business. In her no-fear style, Zyburra said they just “jumped into the deep end of the pool.” As they dove into the restaurant business, however, the pair didn’t expect something otherworldly waiting for them at the bottom. Even though both professed to be skeptics of any kind of ghostly phenomenon, it wasn’t long before the partners became convinced that the Milias Restaurant is haunted.
How It All Began
It all started before the doors even opened. Strange and unexplainable occurrences began happening during renovation at the Milias. Sanchez recalled the first bizarre incident: “It was while we were under construction — four of us saw a person walk in the front door and go to the back room. No one was there when I checked.”
Zyburra also recalled her first encounter. While standing with her back to the soda machine, “a container of lemon slices was thrown across the server station and hit me in the back,” she said. Zyburra said there was no one else in the room, and the lemons were launched 3 feet. Nothing else in the area had been disturbed. According to some, incidents like these have been happening for decades at the restaurant.
The Milias Restaurant was originally opened in 1922. It has a retro glamor that once drew scores of A-list guests such as Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, John Wayne, and Bing Crosby. As the new partners reestablished the refined style of that bygone era, the addition of lingering spirits seems to add to the vintage Hollywood appeal.
Sanchez and Zyburra each traded a list of stories: strange feelings, lamps swinging from the ceiling, chairs moving, humming in ears, people appearing and disappearing, weird phone calls. Perhaps the most unnerving for Zyburra, besides the lemon incident, was once when a man “disappeared into thin air while he was looking straight at me.”
Others Talk About the Ghosts
Ernie Martinez worked as a prep cook during the ’80s (the Milias was called Harvest Time back then). He recalled that after closing one evening, he was alone in the kitchen cleaning up. “I heard noises in the bar, and I walked around the corner, and I caught out of the corner of my eye — I caught, like, two figures sitting at the bar. And I turned real quick, and they weren’t there. And then I could feel, like … I heard footsteps walking out the door. And that was a trip.”
Unnerved, he shared the experience with Jasper, longtime bartender of more than 30 years. He recalled Jasper and several servers also had experiences, but Jasper told him “not to worry because they were friendly ghosts.”
Current employee Greg Garcia, a bartender for about eight years (under Harvest Time and now the Milias), said he’s had encounters, as well.
“I’m usually closing evening times … you get shadow figures in the distant restaurant. The other ones were later evenings, and it’s either between a 10 o’clock window to closing — either putting away glasses or getting glasses — they would shift.” Garcia explained that he would actually see bar glasses moving in front of his eyes. He checked for water underneath or a slant to the shelf but couldn’t find any logical explanation. This has happened on several occasions.
Garcia also shared an experience of one of the servers. She thought her apron kept snagging on chairs, as she felt a tug while walking around the tables. One day, it happened to her out in the middle of the empty floor. “That really freaked her out to the point where she was crying … it was around her apron area where it ties.”
Thirty-something customer and marketing student Jackie Sanchez (no relation to Adam Sanchez) mentioned that she and her friends have often felt that there was a “presence” in the Milias — especially in the women’s restroom. “It’s like someone is in the other stall,” said Sanchez. The only problem is that there isn’t another stall.
Not Everyone’s a Believer
Local historical expert Connie Rogers of the Gilroy Historical Society claims she knows nothing of any strange events at the Milias. She mentioned that many famous people have walked through its doors throughout the years and that it had quite a reputation for being a prominent stop for travelers to the Bay Area, but no ghosts that she’s aware of.
Muriel Bremm, Gilroy resident for over 80 years, went to the Milias back when it was a hotel and restaurant in the early years. “I used to go to the dances that young George Milias would have in the sun room upstairs. He would have a couple of dances, maybe one in the fall and one in the spring.” She then listed many other local events she attended but didn’t recall any spooky encounters.
What’s Really Going On?
When asked if they were still skeptics, Zyburra and Sanchez both agreed that, despite any logical explanation for all the events, they believe the Milias has ghosts. And furthermore, they have no plans to do anything about it. Sanchez said he thinks “[the ghosts] are content with what we are doing here.” Zyburra added that they plan to “coexist peacefully.”
The Milias Restaurant is located at 7397 Monterey, Gilroy, California.
Laura Wrede, freelance writer, photographer, and author, lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and understands that it isn’t just national news that Bay Area residents want to read. They also want to know what’s happening in their own neighborhoods.