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Already-Struggling Restaurant Owners Are Now Facing an Added Challenge: Break-Ins and Thefts

“As if it weren’t tough enough to be in the restaurant industry right now, then somebody pours some salt on the wound and steals your shit.”

Restaurant owners are already struggling to make it through the most recent multiweek "freeze" meant to help quell the spread of COVID-19. But now some find themselves dealing with an additional challenge: break-ins and thefts.

The most recent business to fall victim is Flying Fish Company. Sometime between closing on Saturday, Nov. 21, and opening this morning, Nov. 22, the locks securing heaters used on the patio were cut. Now all six heaters are gone.

"As if it weren't tough enough to be in the restaurant industry right now," owner Lyf Gildersleeve tells WW, "then somebody pours some salt on the wound and steals your shit."

It's just the latest setback in a seemingly unending series during 2020.

Related: Police say break-in are up 21% this year from 2019.

The year actually started off well. Flying Fish was expanding—moving from a cramped corner inside Providore Fine Foods to its own space on East Burnside Street. The new location would allow Gildersleeve to continue to operate as a market while also opening a full-service restaurant.

After a few weeks of robust sales following a February launch, Flying Fish had to close due to the spring pandemic lockdown. Fortunately, Gildersleeve could still sell raw sustainable fish and dishes to go prepared in the kitchen, which got him through.

Since reopening for on-site consumption when Multnomah County transitioned into Phase 1, Gildersleeve offered dine-in service, including seating on a decently sized patio. When colder temperatures arrived this year, he added tall heaters to keep customers eating comfortably outdoors. At a price tag of $500 each, it's a pretty big hit to the business. Fortunately, Gildersleeve can file an insurance claim, but he will still be out $500 after paying the deductible. And that's not the only hurdle.

"The downside is my insurance rates go up when you claim," Gildersleeve explains, "and potentially insurance companies will not renew your policy if you have several claims, which happened to me this year."

Gildersleeve isn't alone in his frustration with the textbook example of being kicked when you're already down.

Tommy Klus, owner of Southeast Portland cocktail den Scotch Lodge, had his business broken into last week. Not only was a window shattered; someone made off with bottles of hard alcohol. He broke the news on the business's Instagram account.

"Fortunately, we didn't have any cash in the building and there isn't too much damage, but our spirits are pretty low," the post stated. "We wanted to share this as a reminder for business owners during the lockdown. It might be worth putting up signs "no cash, no booze.'"