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West Town Cafe Scraps Holiday Party After Burglary, Nearby Cafes Also Hit

By Alisa Hauser | December 5, 2013 10:02am
 Burglars broke into three local businesses over the past two days and stole cash.
Burglaries in Wicker Park, Eckhart Park
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WICKER PARK — Thieves hit three local businesses in three days this week, and at least for one new coffee shop, the blow to its cash flow means there will be no Christmas party for its employees.

"When it comes down to it, I'm only a three-month old business. I'm sad and was going to use [the money lost] on a Christmas Party," said Mikky Wright, owner of Ugly Mug Cafe at  1458 W. Chicago Ave. in West Town's Eckhart Park neighborhood.

Instead of going to a bowling party at Diversey Bowl, the cafe's 10 employees including a manager, Wright and eight part-time workers will be "going to hang out at [nearby] Five Star and have a few drinks next Monday," Wright said.

In each of the three cases, thieves removed locks to enter the businesses: Ugly Mug, Native Foods and Wormhole.

At Ugly Mug, sometime between late Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday, a thief drilled out the lock and when an employee showed up the next day "the lock fell out as the key went in," Wright said.

Wright said $120 in cash was stolen from the bakery's cash register. In addition to taking the cash, the thief went through all the drawers and "minorly ransacked" the shop, Wright said.

Wright said after he called police, a detective "walked us through and told us exactly how they did it."

Police told Wright the shop had "been profiled" and said thieves "will act like a customer and check you out."

Since Wright's insurance deductible is $1,200, and the new lock costs $300, while a new door another $300, his insurance doesn't cover the damage and "It just comes out of pocket."

Two days later, on Wednesday, a lock was removed at Native Foods, a vegan restaurant in Wicker Park at 1484 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Native Food's Manager Chris Callow said it appeared that a thief removed a door lock through a side entrance, which caused the restaurant's security alarm to go off at 5:22 a.m. Wednesday.

Callow said that when kitchen staff came in they saw "the registers thrown about."

The burglar used a crow bar to pry open two of Native Cafe's four registers.

Callow speculated the thieves "got scared off by how loud alarm is" and did not try to open the other two drawers but did make off with "a few hundred dollars" in cash.

Callow said the burglary caused Native Foods to be closed until 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and lose an hour and a half of business since it usually opens at 11 a.m.

The closure was caused by police detectives coming in and dusting for fingerprints, Callow said.

Just 20 minutes after Native Foods was broken into, a man was captured on a video surveillance camera breaking into The Wormhole coffee shop at 5:45 a.m., just a few doors south of Native Foods at 1462 N. Milwaukee Ave.

"He looked like an old man in a sweat suit," Wormhole's manager Stevie Baka said of the man, whom she described as "either white or Hispanic" wearing glasses and "not super tall" or about 5'8, based on the fact he came up to the logo on the door. The burglar also removed the lock at Wormhole, too.

The thief, who was wearing sweat pants and a jacket, made off with $250 from Wormhole, Baka said.

Baka chronicled the incident's aftermath on Facebook, posting a photo of police officers in the coffee shop, which prompted several comments, including one from a customer who said, "There is a special place in hell for people who mess with my fav coffee shop!"

Though it was the fourth time The Wormhole had been broken into in the past few years, Baka said it was the first time money was stolen.

In the other incidents, Baka said revelers smashed the front window so they could break in and see the DeLorean, a car from the 1980s movie "Back to the Future" that was relocated to the back of the coffee shop rather than the front during a remodeling in March 2012.

Baka said the police now have a copy of the video of the man using a lock pick to twist and remove the lock.

"He kept twisting [the lock], people were walking right by," Baka said.