More local business were broken into this week, in a similar manner to others over the past several months.
Two men broke into Olive Lebanese Eatery at 1100 N. Glebe Road in Ballston early Wednesday morning and stole hundreds of dollars in cash, restaurant owner Yvonne Risheq tells ARLnow.
An Arlington County police report says that two suspects smashed their way into the restaurant and fled with stolen cash registers in a Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Around the same time, a similar burglary happened on the 4700 block of Lee Highway. From the crime report:
BURGLARY, 2021-03170043, 4700 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 9:00 a.m. on March 17, police were dispatched to the late report of a commercial burglary. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 6:00 p.m. on March 16 and 9:00 a.m. on March 17, an unknown suspect(s) forced entry into the business and stole a cash register and an undisclosed amount of cash.
These are just two in a rash of burglaries targeting cash-based local businesses that have the Arlington County Police Department concerned.
On February 22, ACPD released a statement that said the department had investigated 21 commercial burglaries so far in 2021. Since then, spokesperson Ashley Savage confirms that four more business burglaries, including the two this week, have occurred — for a total of 25. Savage also noted a recent attempted theft.
Many of the burglaries follow a similar pattern: suspects arriving in the middle of the night, forcing entry by smashing a glass door or window, removing registers or safes with cash, and fleeing in a waiting vehicle.
The entire crime takes mere minutes.
This is exactly what happened at Olive Lebanese Eatery, says Risheq.
At 2:45 a.m. Wednesday morning, security cameras captured two men throwing a boulder through a glass window, entering the building, and stealing the cash registers.
“They were in and out within one minute,” she says. “They knew what they were doing and exactly what to get.”
She says that two cash registers were stolen, each holding between $250 and $350.
Risheq believes it was pre-planned due to their precision and the fact that, when looking back at the surveillance video from earlier in the day, there was a man who had come into the restaurant and looked around for five minutes before exiting.
“He didn’t order anything, didn’t pick anything up. He was inside… just really looking at how things flowed,” she says. “To me, that’s very suspicious.”
In the end, the damages caused by the break-in will probably cost more than the $500 to $700 stolen, she says. They have to fix the glass window, the door, repair their sign, change all the keys and locks, and replace a few other items in the restaurant.
“No one was here and nobody got hurt,” says Risheq. “That’s the most important thing.”
The restaurant closed on Wednesday for repairs and re-opened on Thursday.
Olive Express Mediterranean Café opened in Ballston in October 2019, joining locations in Reston and Herndon. Later, the restaurant changed its name to Olive Lebanese Eatery.
Risheq says that they initially suffered a 90% drop in sales due to the pandemic, but catering has picked back up somewhat in recent weeks. The hope is that when people begin to return to the office — potentially this summer — business will slowly return to normal.
As for dishes she recommends to new customers, Risheq says the Lebanese kabobs or the falafel are the way to go.
“We make our falafel from scratch,” she says. “We’ve won awards for our falafel and humus.”
Due to their location in an office-heavy portion of Ballston, near a busy road, they’ve always felt safe. With the break-in, that illusion of safety is now shattered — but it won’t deter her from continuing to do business in Arlington.
“I was really surprised by the outpouring of support yesterday from residents and the community,” Risheq says. “I’m glad we made the move [to Arlington]. We do love it here.”