At least seven restaurants in Victoria have experienced break-ins, thefts, and suspicious activity over the past two weeks.
The businesses involved include E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar on Pandora Ave, Fishhook at Mermaid Wharf, Browns Crafthouse on Wilson Street in Vic West, Redd’s Roadhouse Pub on Blanshard Street, Irish Times Pub on Government Street, Veneto Bar Ristorante on Douglas Street, and Cafe Mexico on Store Street.
Owners, managers, and employees at the establishments have contacted police and shared details about these incidents in a Facebook group.
Each restaurant reports similar occurrences between around November 16th and 21st, where one suspicious individual breaks into the business (or attempts to) and steals personal items and money.
Ryan Smith, manager at Redd’s Pub, tells Victoria Buzz that at around 6 p.m. on November 16th, a man broke into his office and stole a large amount of envelopes containing tips for kitchen staff, then entered the staff area in the kitchen and stole one of the cook’s purse and wallet.
The suspect was confronted by an employee as they were leaving, but he dismissed her and continued on his way.
When Smith contacted police, he says officers responded right away but have not provided any updates about their investigation since then.
“As the manager I do everything I can to make sure people feel safe, somehow this guy got into the back end of our operation and took that feeling from us,” says Smith.
“Money and items can be replaced, a sense of safety sadly has to take time to fix. The area we are in has become a non stop problem since the opening of the old Tally Ho housing project. Our property has been vandalized, broken into, with little to no help from the police.”
Similarly, E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar on Pandora Ave was broken into at around 3 a.m. on November 19th and, according to owner Anton Ihl, the suspect stole over $3,000 of personal and restaurant belongings.
Ihl believes the perpetrator picked the back door lock when no one was around, and no cameras or alarms were operational.
He says this isn’t the first time he has had to call police about suspicious activity at his restaurant.
“I’ve had to call the police for an aggressive person last week, one or two days before we were broken into. It took police over thirty minutes to respond to my 911 call,” says Ihl.
“As a city we need to tighten up the security so the criminals think twice before helping themselves and hurting small business owners. My staff are afraid to lock up the restaurant on their own now. There is definitely a sense of fear amongst us that seems to be a common feeling in the hospitality industry these days.”
Victoria Buzz has reached out to Victoria Police for information about their investigation into these incidents.
According to Cst. Matt Rutherford, VicPD will not be available to issue a comment on this story until Monday, December 2nd.