London restaurants hoping to attract customers with patio spaces have seen a rash of thefts throughout the summer.
Fatty Patty’s Bar and Grill, located at 390 Springbank Drive, opened their new patio in late June in accordance with Ontario’s Stage One reopening guidelines.
By the end of August, pieces of furniture costing hundreds of dollars had been stolen from the property on three separate occasions.
“We just feel totally defeated,” said Tatiana Tarevski, who helps to manage the restaurant her father first opened in 1984.
Tarevski said that creating an outdoor dining space was intended to help offset financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But after a month, the patio umbrellas and their metal bases began to disappear, while no one was looking, in broad daylight.
While Fatty Patty’s has received an outpouring of support from its patrons, no witnesses have come forward, and the thefts were not captured on security footage.
The most recent incident occurred on August 29. Now, the patio is left with its picnic tables, and only one backup umbrella. Tarevski estimates that the total losses amount to $600, not counting the long-term impact on business.
“There goes our additional seating for how many more days of the year that we could have had it open,” said Tarevski.
“There were people that didn’t feel comfortable eating anywhere inside, and they’re going to patios throughout the city. It was nice to see new people that we hadn’t seen. So we’ve lost our additional seating and an important part of the restaurant, so it’s going to affect daily sales for sure.”
Time, money, and morals at stake
Closer to the downtown core, Alibi Roadhouse at 25 Oxford Street West also reopened under the patio-only guidelines in June.
Within the first three weeks, a thief made away with all of Alibi’s patio string lights, valued at around $200.
“We’re still trying to recover after the pandemic,” said manager Casey Yetman.
“You don’t budget a theft like that in. When you’re still trying to get back on your feet and people are pillaging and plundering and taking things for whatever means it might be, it definitely has an effect, morally and financially.”
Happiness Cafe, located at 430 Wellington Street, saw six patio tents stolen in August.
Owner Olha Prytkova said a man was seen on security footage entering onto the property at around 11 p.m. one night. He dismantled two tents and carted them away, returning again at 3 a.m. to finish the job.
Customers helped to recover four of the tents, but two remain missing. Prytkova said she takes issue with the amount of time spent working with police and the community to track down her property.
Cody J. Bollman, front-of-house manager for Craft Farmacy at 449 Wharncliffe Road South, said he’s given up on trying to replace 15 cedar trees that have been stolen from its patio, twice.
The cedars, which Bollman described as “not cheap,” were placed with hopes to create somewhat of a barrier between the patrons and Wharncliffe’s busy traffic.
However, the trees were stolen directly from their planter boxes in late July. Three days later, donated replacements were stolen once more.
“I’m sure someone would donate [again] in a heartbeat, but it’s just not worth it. At the end of the day, it was a failed idea,” said Bollman, adding that the trees lasted for about two weeks.
“It was good while it lasted.”
Craft Farmacy has also experienced vandalism in the form of smashed windows and signage.
CBC News reached out to London police for comment on the rash of thefts in the restaurant industry but did not receive a response.