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Calgary restaurant owner believes thefts are racially motivated: ‘It’s been a tough year’

Click to play video: '‘It’s been a tough year’: Calgary restaurant owner believes thefts are racially motivated' ‘It’s been a tough year’: Calgary restaurant owner believes thefts are racially motivated
WATCH: A restaurant in Calgary's beltline district has been the target of thieves on three different occasions. As Jill Croteau reports, the owners wonder if the string of crimes is racially motivated. – Jul 8, 2021

A series of crimes targeting a beltline restaurant has left the owners of Simply Irie wondering if the thefts are racially motivated.

The restaurant specializes in Caribbean fusion.

Read more: Alberta restaurateurs hope for reimbursement in light of COVID-19 patio ban

In order to stay open during the pandemic, the owners built a patio, investing nearly $20,000.

Patio at Simply Irie. Jill Croteau/Global News

“It was sink or swim,” Bruney said. “Something needed to be done.”

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But someone has come back repeatedly to steal umbrellas and chairs, on separate occasions, over the course of a month.

Read more: ‘Astronomical’ damage done after $1K worth of meat stolen from Calgary business

Owner Fay Bruney said the morning of June 9 was the first theft. She said the thief even cut through chains to snag the items that were locked up.

“I was shocked to see the umbrellas were gone. Then we noticed chains were gone.”

It happened again on two more separate days, the last being July 2.

4 chairs were stolen. Jill Croteau/Global News

“They had also taken four chairs that are not easy to take,” Bruney said.

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“He took everything he could get his hands on; it was sickening to watch the footage of him. I have not even paid for the patio yet and now I’m watching it get picked over, not once or twice, but three times,” said Bruney.

Capture of suspect on surveillance video. Courtesy: Simply Irie

“The gentleman was so comfortable, he walked up and he knew what he was doing. It was 5:02 in the morning. It was like he was entitled to it.”

Bruney said no other restaurant patios in the area were targeted and she feels there’s a possibility this may have been racially motivated.

Ariel O’Neil works at the restaurant and said it’s been hard to see Bruney get emotional about it.

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“I see how these things are breaking her down. It hurts me. I see her as a mom and it’s hard because she puts on a brave face and it’s just one thing after another.”

Read more: Alberta restaurant owners frustrated as COVID-19 closures cut into prime patio season

She said the string of crimes feels personal.

“They’re not hitting anybody else and I see the pain it’s causing,” O’Neil said.

Bruney filed a police report and it will be investigated.

Calgary police said they had just received the preliminary report and couldn’t say yet whether or not the thefts are racially motivated.

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