By Jeff Wagner

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Monday afternoon at plant-based restaurant J Selby’s was cooking along as usual, but owner Matt Clayton had more to worry about than just the menu.

“Recovering from our break-in,” he said.

A boarded up glass door shows the spot where Clayton said the thief smashed his way in using a cigarette butt container early Saturday morning before quickly maneuvering around in the restaurant.

The man rattles registers in search of money, then heads directly for the basement stairs. What you don’t see in the video is once the thief was in the basement, he had to destroy a desk in order to steal the safe that was bolted to it.

“This is a first. And there certainly is that component of violation,” said Clayton.

Inside were checks and thousands of dollars, about $1,350 of which were donations. The money was dropped off by customers on Thanksgiving when the restaurant hosted a free meal to all. It was supposed to go to the people living at the homeless encampment in Minneapolis.

“We are insured and insurance does cover cash on hand. Fortunately, we have all that well documented so hopefully we’ll be made whole and get the money off to the encampment,” he said.

The restaurant opened the same day of the burglary. Clayton said he’s seen a “tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support from our customers and just from people around. It’s pretty great.” But he said his employees are shaken by the crime.

Clayton believes the thief is familiar with the inside of the restaurant based on how he moved around the place with ease and quickly found the safe. Police have the surveillance video and said there was another restaurant burglary nearby, but it’s unclear if they’re related.

Despite having surveillance cameras and an alarm system, Clayton says security improvements will happen. What won’t change, he said, is their mission.

“As long as we have enough (money) to keep ourselves going, we’re gonna do that,” he said.

Jeff Wagner

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