HELL'S KITCHEN — Staff from a controversial hookah bar went from neighborhood zero to hero after they helped cops catch a pair of thieves who allegedly stole grates from dozens of tree beds along Restaurant Row, police said.
Horus Too, a hookah bar at 417 W. 46th St., has drawn ire from residents and neighboring businesses for rowdy bellydancing parties and drunken patrons.
But owner Nasr Mostafa and manager Abdel Ghafoura helped police nab Horace Jacobs, 35, and Robert Deloach, 31, on May 9 for allegedly stealing 44 metal grates that protect trees beds along West 46th Street.
The men allegedly delivered the metal to the Bronx where it was melted down for scrap, cops said.
They were charged with felony grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, and possession of burglary tools, according to court records. Deloach was released without bail and is due back in court Aug. 21. Jacobs was being held on $7,500 bail.
The bar's owners first heard about the ongoing thefts at a meeting of the West 46th Street Block Association — which they had attended to discuss complaints from neighbors that their bar holds loud parties late into the night.
Ghafoura told DNAinfo.com New York that Mostafa noticed a suspicious-looking Ford van outside their restaurant in late April, ran after it, and snapped a picture of the license plate, which he then turned over to cops.
The van turned out to be the one Jacobs and Deloach were allegedly using to transport the grates to a smelting facility in the Bronx, cops said.
Bar staff also offered to turn their security footage over to police from the night of the incident.
"This is us being good neighbors, this is us helping out," said Ghafoura, who was awarded a $1,000 check from the Times Square Alliance for his efforts. The alliance had offered for the cash reward earlier this month for tips leading to the thieves' arrest.
"We are grateful for Mr. Mostafa's quick thinking and decisive action that lead him to call the Alliance hotline to report this crime, and also to the NYPD for their superb follow up," said Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins in a statement.
Cops were only able to to recover three of the stolen grates, because the rest had already been turned over to the smelting facility, police said.
"The gentlemen took [the grates] to a place in the Bronx, we tried to get as many as we could but they had already been melted down," said Inspector Timothy Beaudette, commanding officer of the Midtown North Precinct, at a meeting of the precinct's community council on Tuesday.
"We only recovered the three that were in the van."
Andrew Begg, who heads up the West 46th Street Block Association, said that his organization reported the thefts in mid-April, but cops wouldn't accept a stolen property complaint from the association because the group doesn't own the grates.
"We lost about two weeks in this process," Begg said. "At the time we first started pushing this issue, we could have saved half of them."
Beaudette said that as soon as his men were given the license plate number by Horus Too's staff, officers began looking for the van, but admitted that the precinct could have acted sooner in looking into the reported thefts.
"We're not perfect," he said. "Yes, they should have been a little more aggressive with it."