Burglars using strikingly similar methods have raided four Bay Ridge restaurants in the past month and made off with thousands of dollars worth of loot.
Thieves invaded Mezcal’s on Third Avenue between 75th and 76th streets on June 23, Circles Cafe at the corner of 69th Street and Third Avenue on June 30, Sally & George’s on Third Avenue between 78th and 79th streets on July 12, and Hunter’s Steak and Ale House on Fourth Avenue between 94th and 95th streets on July 14. The crooks’ restaurant craze has left eatery owners in the normally low-crime neighborhood hungry for answers.
“I’m here all these years and nothing happened. Why now?” said George Dokmaji, founder of Sally & George’s.
In three of the four lunchroom raids, the bandits broke open the front entrance with a tool — possibly a screwdriver or crowbar. At Dokmaji’s establishment, cameras showed three criminals trying to jimmy with the tool one of the doors facing Third Avenue, before kicking the glass in on another. The pillagers found just $30 in the register — but the furious Lebanon-born chef said the repairs will cost thousands.
“It’s disgusting and annoying,” said Dokmaji, who hopes his insurance company will pay for a reinforced door.
Other restaurants also hope to be reimbursed for expensive damages. At Hunter’s, the bandits broke open the front door, then the door to the basement tool room. There they found several sledge hammers that allowed them to smash open several refrigerating rooms holding meat and seafood. In addition to a laptop and $8,000 in check receipts and cash, the gluttonous goons grabbed pounds of shrimp, several aged short loins, and a frozen rack of lamb. The villains also clipped the wires on the security cameras and took the video storage device.
“We’re going to have to spend some money,” said manager Steve Gannon, adding that the tavern will likely invest in steel doors for its meat lockers.
Gannon said the sudden outbreak of cafe capers left him concerned about the future.
“I was a little upset about it, to say the least,” Gannon said. “It makes me worried.”
The criminals who broke into Mezcal’s used the same front door entry tactic — but came out with a much smaller haul. The crooks recovered just $50 from the register.
Circles Cafe was the only invasion that did not fit the pattern. A manager who declined to give his name said that he left a window open while closing up at 2 am. When he returned five and a half hours later, he saw the screen on the portal sliced open. Inside, he found the back office raided and a pair of lockboxes emptied of $500. Circles was also the only business to experience a previous break-in, but the supervisor said he blamed himself.
“It was pretty stupid on my part,” the manager said. “I’m not forgetting to lock the window again.”
Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.