Dinner service at a fine dining restaurant can be a stressful endeavor to prepare for—but imagine doing it when you start the day without the patio furniture that normally seats over half of your nighttime guests. That was the nightmare faced by Laura Bliss, owner of Sunriver's South Bend Bistro, after people made off with most of the furniture, lights and even in-ground plants set up on the patio of the restaurant.
Bliss, who bought the restaurant five years ago after serving as its manager, said her husband woke her up the morning of June 23, telling her to look at the cameras she had set up to monitor the restaurant.
- Submitted by South Bend Bistro
"I look on the cameras and there's people on our deck just walking off with stuff," Bliss said. "I'm like, why are people taking stuff off of our patio? What's going on? And by the time I had seen the cameras, most of our patio furniture and umbrellas and all that were gone already."
As Bliss recounted, a former owner of South Bend Bistro had allegedly gotten into an argument with another person online. The former owner still listed South Bend Bistro on her Facebook profile, Bliss said—which she now believes prompted someone to retaliate against the "owner" by posting an ad on Craigslist.
"The Craigslist ad said that we were going out of business and hurry and come, take everything, whether anyone is there or not, just grab and go," Bliss told the Source. "The people that came, I mean, they dug out our plants. They kicked over pots to take plants. I mean, the amount of damage that they did was just insane."
Roughly estimating, Bliss believes over $9,000 worth of patio furniture, propane tanks, lights, planters and other service items were taken. Some of the items have since been returned.
"This sweet old man brought back items that he took—and that's kind of what we thought it would be. The target market would be older. People who wouldn't understand Facebook scams, right? Or Craigslist scams," Bliss recounted. "So he came back in tears and we hugged it out. We found out that he did donate some of it to Habitat for Humanity. So we were kind of like, well, you know, bless your heart for thinking about others, you know? And he wrote us a check for what he wasn't able to return."
Bliss said the video footage shows another couple coming early in the day and filling up their truck with the bulk of what was taken, but they have not come back to return anything.
With a 5pm deadline to open the restaurant for the guests who had made reservations that night, Bliss' husband sprang into action, buying out the nearest hardware store of all the patio furniture it had on hand. With all hands "on deck," literally, Bliss, her husband and the staff had set the patio back up by 5:01pm that night—one minute after dinner service officially opened. Had they not opened that evening, Bliss said they would have lost another $10,000 in restaurant revenue.
"I feel like I'm constantly checking the cameras now. I have No Trespassing signs all over the place for when we're not open. I feel like our security was just invaded. All over a stupid social media argument."
Bliss has filed an insurance claim for the losses but said it's unclear whether she'll receive a payout since the furniture and other items were not locked down.
"We don't feel like we should have to—it's private property. Without someone there giving permission to be on the property, they shouldn't be on the property. So we don't want to have to chain up everything at night. Locals are concerned because we have been changing something, and you know, it makes them uncomfortable, they don't like the look of it— you know, to them, this is their safe quaint town." Meanwhile, Bliss said, regulars at the restaurant have come in to hand over checks to help them out, and supporters also launched a GoFundMe.
"We have wonderful neighbors—they let us use their tables and chairs until we could replace ours. So it took a couple of extra days to get to where we could replace ours and give them theirs back. But we had a lot of local support."
Sunriver Police say the case is still under investigation, but Bliss said they had not yet identified who created the Craigslist post as of July 9.