First, the COVID-19 pandemic. Now this: Two Fresno restaurants are picking up the pieces after vandals caused damage in separate, unrelated incidents.
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Chuck Van Fleet, owner of Vino Grille & Spirits in northeast Fresno, awoke Wednesday night with a call that someone shot out his windows with a gun.
“My cleaning crew called me and said, ‘Hey, all of your windows are broken.’ I’m like, how can they be broken? My alarm hasn’t gone off,” Van Fleet said. “I came over here and it was obvious that there were bullet holes through my doors.”
Earlier in the week, the owner of Oggi Cosi Si Mangia in the Tower District discovered his restaurant trashed.
Both owners say vandals caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
Bullets Damage Vino Grille & Spirits
Van Fleet said someone shot at least eight bullets, possibly from an air rifle, destroying doors and windows. The damage is estimated at $10,000.
No one was in the restaurant at the time of the shooting.
After arriving on the scene, Van Fleet found glass all over his restaurant. The vandal also poured motor oil in the decorative fountain outside the eatery.
“We’ve had to throw away a lot of food. And then, I wasn’t able to open. I can’t open safely when my doors are boarded up,” Van Fleet said.
The city of Fresno rolled back shelter-in-place restrictions, allowing restaurants to open as soon as Thursday night.
Van Fleet says he is open for take-out and curbside pickup. He will fully reopen for dine-in customers on Tuesday.
Surveillance Captured an Image
Surveillance video captured a shadowy figure but does not provide a good look at the face.
As he and his crew boarded up the restaurant, Van Fleet wondered why this happened.
“It seems pretty pointed at me. Nothing happened to any of the other businesses (nearby). So somebody is not happy with something and they just shut us all up,” Van Fleet said.
Van Fleet is also president of the local chapter of the California Restaurant Association.
Throughout the ordeal, Van Fleet praised Fresno police.
“The Fresno police were absolutely amazing. They came out. There were four or five police out here,” Van Fleet said. “They cleared the building to make sure nobody was in it. But they stayed with me until the guys got here to board it up. They were really supportive.”
Oggi Owner: I’m at the Edge of My Rope
Louie Maglieri has owned Oggi’s for 13 years, and been working in restaurants his whole life — dating back to growing up in Montreal and Chicago.
He closed down Oggi’s for two months because of the pandemic shelter-in-place orders but monitored his shop either in person or via video stream.
Maglieri got suspicious earlier in the week when his alarm company notified him of motion inside the restaurant, but his video surveillance stream wasn’t working. On Wednesday morning, he discovered his restaurant trashed.
“We were burglarized. …. They tore the place up, like really badly,” Maglieri said.
He also discovered business papers from his restaurant in the back of his truck left in the parking lot, and in the dumpster — later set on fire.
Maglieri discovered curtains were closed at Oggi’s, which he normally leaves open.
“My office is destroyed. They emptied me out. There was no power. I lost the food in the freezer. They stole the (video recorder) box. There was clawhammer stuck in the keypad,” Maglieri recalled.
Maglieri is still calculating the damage, at least $20,000, including $8,000 in stolen wine.
“I’m at the edge of my frickin’ rope,” Maglieri said.
Frustrated at Homeless
Although he can’t prove it because his cameras were cut and storage unit stolen, Maglieri thinks the residents of the homeless encampment that sprung up behind is restaurant are to blame.
“I would bet my life on it. But at the same time, I’m not going to lie. I could have easily said, ‘yeah, I saw them in the building,’ but I’m not that kind of person,” Maglieri said.
Maglieri said he was frustrated at the police for failing to deal with the encampments in the area.
“What kills me is that the police go by there every freaking day because they park behind my restaurant to do paperwork. Why can’t they chase them out of there? How do they allow them even to set up a tent? I’m saying it’s ridiculous,” Maglieri said.
Maglieri said it’s not worth it to take care of the homeless situation by himself.
“If something happens … they have nothing to lose. I’m the one that’s going to be in trouble,” Maglieri said.
Still Wouldn’t Reopen
Even with the permission from the city to reopen, Maglieri says he will remain closed, taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I have a lot of elderly customers. I’m really not comfortable with this whole thing because there seems to be so much conflicting information. … I don’t really think anybody really knows what the hell the truth is about this,” Maglieri said. “If they do, they’re not sharing. So to me, money is not worth the health of people.”
Maglieri is also skeptical of the routine he would need to meet state and local standards.
“To sell a plate of spaghetti, I got to do like a NASA routine here. It’s just not even worth it to me anymore. My servers now become nurses, pretty much. They have to sanitize everything. I mean, we’re clean anyway, but it’d be just these extra precautions. It’s just too much. It’s just too much. I’m not handling this whole situation very well, honestly,” Maglieri said.