Long Beach restaurants are on high alert after a recent string of burglaries; a total of five local restaurants have been broken into in less than two weeks, and owners say they feel violated and on edge.
The latest break-in took place around 3:16 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at Roxanne’s, a long-standing restaurant and bar in the California Heights neighborhood. Surveillance video posted on the restaurant’s social media shows a person wearing a black hoodie breaking through a wooden side door using a crowbar. The person then leaps onto the bar and begins scrounging through cabinets before taking off with a few bottles of liquor, according to the restaurant’s owner, Robert Molina.
Molina told the Post that in his 13 years of owning the restaurant, it has been burglarized four times. Each time is just as shocking as the last, he said.
“We’ve adapted and have been precautious,” said Molina, adding that the restaurant has worked on getting a better security system and taking extra safety measures after each break-in.
“You feel taken advantage of for all the effort that you’ve put into something.”
Police say at least three of the break-ins that have taken place over the last week appear to be connected.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, two businesses in Belmont Heights and one near Long Beach Airport were burglarized, which all appear to have been carried out by the same person, according to police.
Among the businesses affected were The Breakfast Bar at 3404 E. Fourth St., which was broken into at 3:58 a.m., and Speak Cheezy at 3950 E. Fourth St., which was burglarized at 5:16 a.m., police said. The two businesses are just four blocks from one another in Belmont Heights.
Three miles north, Mexican restaurant Baja Sonora, located at 2940 Clark Ave., was also hit at 4:51 a.m., police said. It appears that the suspect broke into The Breakfast Bar first, traveled up to Baja Sonora and came back to Speak Cheezy shortly afterward.
Police said Thursday that no suspect information is available at this point, but the investigation is ongoing. As of Thursday, Molina had not yet reported the Roxanne’s break-in to police, meaning they had no way to know if there was a connection between all four crimes, according to the Long Beach Police Department.
“Unfortunately, it’s kind of just a part of doing business in Downtown Long Beach right now,” said Pamela Beadel, who owns The Breakfast Bar with her husband, Josh. The pair said they have now become desensitized to this type of thing.
The Breakfast Bar has two locations in Long Beach, and it was the first time that their Belmont Heights location had been burglarized. Their location in Downtown Long Beach, at 70 Atlantic Ave., has already been broken into twice, and the routine is the same, they said: call insurance, board up the broken doors or windows, replace what is broken and continue serving customers.
The burglar on Saturday shattered the restaurant’s glass door using a long crowbar and took off with two cash registers. In total, the person fled with about $1,000 cash, $400 of which was employee tips that will be replaced, Josh Beadel said.
“It’s unfortunate that people are in these situations and this is what they have to resort to, to take from other people,” he said.
Repairs for the broken door and replacements for the two cash registers that were stolen will cost upwards of $6,500, according to the couple.
To ease the financial burden on businesses that have been the targets of a crime, the city has allocated $350,000 from the Long Beach Recovery Act for the Visual Improvement Grant program, which offers impacted businesses $1,500 grants to help offset the cost of repairs.
Across the city, property crime accounted for nearly 84% of all reported crime last year, according to Long Beach Police Department data. Property crime rose 7.6% last year compared to 2021, with 13,895 reports filed—an average of 38 reports per day.
Commercial burglary, with 941 reports, was up 26.3% compared to 2021, data shows.
While the grant will not cover the entire cost, the Beadels said they are happy with any help they can get and will be apply when the application opens on Feb. 22.
“Long Beach does the best job they can, it’s unfortunate all the way around,” they said.
“This doesn’t happen every day, this is not as normal as we want to make it out to seem. But, you know, it happens from time to time, and it’s just unfortunate.”
While some businesses have kept their spirits high, others have found it difficult.
Erik Vasquez, owner of La Esquinita Mexican Grill in the Wrigley neighborhood, said he’s lost hope in the justice system after his establishment was vandalized for the fifth time since it opened in October 2021 on a small corner at 755 W. Willow St.
The latest break-in took place on Tuesday, Jan. 24, around 4:40 a.m., and it was the same thing he’s seen many times, said Vasquez. Surveillance video shows a person break through a window and enter the restaurant. Vasquez said the person left empty-handed, but it is still disappointing.
The last time it happened was on Sept. 16 around 4:37 a.m., and every time, Vasquez said in Spanish, “my morale drops because of the dreams you have—well, they affect you.”
Police said that no suspect has ever been caught in connection to the four previous crimes at La Esquinita. The fifth time, police said the restaurant did not file a report.
According to the LBPD, there does not appear to be a connection between La Esquinita’s latest break-in and the string of burglaries that took place over the weekend.
While Vasquez has lost faith in the criminal justice system, he said he has no plans to leave the establishment or relocate because of the sentimental value the restaurant holds. Being in Wrigley is important, he said. It’s where he first arrived from Mexico at 17, and it’s where his family has now lived for over 40 years.
“That would be like giving up on the dream I have,” Vazquez said. “But we are facing the problem.”
Each restaurant owner said that community support has helped them recuperate their losses. At The Breakfast Bar, the Beadels said they have been busier than usual following the news of their break-in, and they will be visiting some of the other restaurants that were targeted soon to spread the love. Vasquez said he has received immense support through social media, as he does every time something like this happens.
To continue to support these businesses, Vasquez, Molina and the Beadels all said that patronage is the best way to allow them to continue doing what they love.