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Peterburgers restaurant in Peterborough, Ont., broken into, $2,000 worth of food spoiled

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WATCH: As small business continue to battle the financial ramifications of COVID-19 shutdowns, one local burger joint in Peterborough took an extra hit on the weekend – Jul 7, 2020

Imagine going up to the cottage with your family for some quiet time on the weekend, and having to race back when you find out your business has been vandalized.

Roy Asselstine and Nicole Comber, owners of Peterburgers on George Street in Peterborough, Ont., were at Asselstine’s parents’ property when they got a call on Monday afternoon that they never saw coming.

“We got a call at about 1 p.m. from the police saying there were reports of a possible break-in into our restaurant,” said Asselstine.

“Then, we got a message shortly after that from a customer who was walking by, who was the one that actually called the police. He noticed that the door was heavily damaged.”

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The owners drove back to Peterborough Monday night. Sure enough, when they arrived, Peterborough police confirmed a break-in had happened and had taken fingerprints.

Asselstine said the vandal ripped open the back door with what was most likely a crowbar, then rummaged through the shop.

The couple keeps the cash register open to show possible burglars that it’s empty. Asselstine said the robber emptied the drawers underneath the register onto the floor.

Even though nothing was stolen, the suspect still managed to do a lot of damage.

“For some reason, they went into the walk-in fridge and … there was nothing missing out of the fridge, but they left the doors open,” said Asselstine.

“We don’t know how long they were open for.  We lost all of our beef, our produce, our cheese — everything that we use was compromised, so we had to, unfortunately, get rid of it.”

Asselstine estimates the food will cost him $2,000 to replace. This is the second time he and his wife had to replace their food supply, as their fridge broke down two weeks ago, costing them another $2,000 in goods.

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Peterborough police have confirmed to Global News that they are investigating the incident as a break-in. In an email, police said an unknown person(s) broke into the George Street North restaurant sometime between 7 p.m. on July 3 and 1:52 p.m. on July 6. No further details were provided.

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Despite all this, the couple is dealing with the break-in with their heads held high. Asselstine said they felt ‘defeated’ when they first arrived at their shop, but after assessing the damage, they were ‘lucky’ that the robber hadn’t vandalized the inside of the store.

Just like many restaurants in downtown Peterborough, Peterburgers has been feeling the pinch of the pandemic shutdown. The shop opened its door for the first time in late November.

“Every small business is feeling it, 100 per cent,” said Asselstine. “Once they cancelled [Peterborough] Musicfest, we knew we were in trouble. You know, we have a walk-up window across from 30,000 people a week. We were really banking on that money to survive next winter, you know? We’re a fairly young couple, and it’s our first business. We opened it on less than half what we should’ve had.”

Asselstine said that while their restaurant is looking to reopen again on Thursday, it would take ‘pretty much a miracle’ for them to make it ’til winter.

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However, the couple says the community support since they first opened has been outstanding, with restaurants like Apollo Grill, The Brickhouse, and Bridgenorth Delicatessen offering to help out with food and even another fridge.

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Roy Asselstine and his family say they want the Peterborough community to know that they are thankful for their continued support.
Roy Asselstine and his family say they want the Peterborough community to know that they are thankful for their continued support. Roy Asselstine

Asselstine said prior to the break-in, people had been coming in ” two or three times a week to order food, and it’s amazing, and we’re extremely humbled by it.”

Asselstine wants the other small businesses in the city to know that they’re all in this together, fighting against the odds. Even though the future of his family’s restaurant is unclear, Asselstine said he “couldn’t be more proud” to be a part of the Peterborough community.

“We were going to fight to put our dream into place, and that’s what we did … a big thank you to the people of Peterborough,” said Asselstine.

The owners are asking anyone with information on the break-in to come forward.

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