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A Ballston Mediterranean cafe is broken into for the second time in a year

For the second time in less than a year, Olive Lebanese Eatery in Ballston is cleaning up broken glass after a break in.

On Tuesday night (Feb. 22) at about 9:15 p.m., according to the police report, a witness spotted a man attempting to break in through the front door of the restaurant at 1100 N. Glebe Road. At the same time, a security camera was also recording the burglary in progress.

When the man couldn’t break through the front door, he threw a brick through the restaurant’s glass window. Then, he walked through the broken window, broke the cash register on the floor, grabbed approximately $50 in cash, and fled on foot. The suspect also damaged the glass front door of an adjacent business, the police report notes, but didn’t force entry.

The crime will cost the family-owned restaurant thousands, as its business continues to recover from the pandemic.

Arlington police caught up with the suspect a short time later, a few blocks away at N. Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard.

Police arrested an Arlington man and charged him with burglary, petit larceny, destruction of property, and identity theft for providing false information to police. He was already wanted by the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office for failing to appear in court and violating a condition of an earlier release, confirms ACPD spokesperson Ashley Savage.

From the crime report:

The investigation determined that at approximately 9:16 p.m., a witness observed the suspect force entry into the business by throwing an item through the window, breaking the glass. The suspect then allegedly damaged the cash register and stole an undisclosed amount of cash before fleeing the scene on foot. No other items were reported stolen. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect also damaged the glass front door to an adjacent business, however no entry was believed to have been made inside. During the course of the investigation, the suspect provided false identifying information, however,  the officers were able to subsequently properly identify the suspect. [The suspect], 58, of Arlington Va., was arrested and charged with Burglary, Petit Larceny, Destruction of Property (x2), and Identity Theft. He was also served with outstanding warrants out of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office. He was held on no bond.

The previous warrants are related to a misdemeanor charge from earlier this year, according to court records.

While the suspect only made out with about $50, the damage caused by the break-in could cost upwards of $7,000, owner Yvonne Risheq tells ARLnow. Besides the window, front door, and cash register, the suspect also damaged tables, chairs, the point of sales system, and the floor.

“This was just a single guy… who wanted easy cash,” Risheq says. “The money wasn’t much… because nobody pays in cash anymore. And, after the last time, we don’t keep any cash in the register.”

This break-in is a bit different than what happened last year to Olive Lebanese Eatery. In March 2021, a group of well-rehearsed suspects smashed the glass window, grabbed the cash registers, and fled within minutes during the early morning hours.

This was part of a rash of burglaries aimed at cash-based local businesses probably committed by the same group of people. At that point in the year, there had already been more than 20 similar burglaries in Arlington in 2021. Those likely suspects were arrested in April 2021.

Risheq suspects that the reason her restaurant has been targeted now twice in a year is that while it technically has a N. Glebe Road address, the shop is a bit tucked away.

“We are not on a main street… where there’s traffic constantly,” she says. “There’s really nothing going on in that little corner. So, no one is going to spot somebody.”

While Risheq has no plans to move, it remains concerning that someone could break in like that at 9:15 p.m. when more traffic and people theoretically are around.

“It makes you think twice…this is not where we were robbed once every five years. It’s twice in the same year,” she says.

She did compliment Arlington police for their speedy arrival and work to arrest the suspect quickly. Nonetheless, the restaurant is bringing in a security expert, at extra cost, to provide advice on how to better protect the store.

Like many other restaurants, it’s been a rough over the last two years due to the pandemic for Olive Lebanese Eatery. At one point, sales dropped by 90%. While those have mostly recovered, now it is material costs and supply chain disruptions that are hurting the restaurant. And this recent robbery only adds to its woes.

But the owner is hoping for a full recovery and is planning to remain in the Ballston location, where it’s been since October 2019. The front door has already been repaired and was open for business the day after the burglary.

On Nextdoor, community members were asking how they can help and Risheq notes simply coming in to say hello, grabbing a bite to eat, and a coffee would be great. Risheq and family are hoping to spread the word to help the restaurant recover financially.

“We have a large insurance deductible to meet so please just continue supporting by dining with us and spreading the word about our family business,” said a Nextdoor post.

“I’m not going to be scared or shoved out,” Risheq said. “I just have to think of more ways to protect the business. We’re happy in Arlington and, hopefully, we’ll keep growing in Arlington.”

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