Lee Street Deli might end after-bar hours following vandalism

Sunday, April 25, 2010 | 4:50 p.m. CDT; updated 10:20 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 30, 2010

COLUMBIA — Lee Street Deli might be shutting off its grill early on Fridays and Saturdays after several spouts of vandalism have left the store bruised and battered.

Saturday, the restaurant said that late-night hours — from 1 to 3 a.m. — were canceled for an "unknown" period of time on its Twitter account. When asked on Sunday, two cooks said the decision to not provide hungry night owls with the infamous "juicy burger" was not final.

“This happens all the time,” said manager Sarah Debold, referring to the vandalism. But the number of incidents have spiked in the last month or so, Debold said.

“We can’t make enough money to stay open if people are going to steal and vandalize,” said David Hornig, a cook at the deli.

Recently, the deli had its front door screen kicked in and the sign bolted to the front of the building was removed. The tweet announcing the cancellation of late-night hours mentioned that an employee's bike had been stolen.

Hornig and another cook, John Horner, talked to each other about vandalism in the past. They said clocks have been stolen off the walls, mannequins have mysteriously walked off the premises and a stolen newsstand was found in the front yard of an MU fraternity.

“Drunk people will steal anything,” said Horner. When the place is packed with drunk, rowdy customers and only two cooks behind the counter, it’s easy for stuff to go missing, Horner said.

Both cooks said they have seen customers stealing candy and chips during the Friday and Saturday midnight shifts. One time, they said, a cook ran after a group of people who’d stolen handfuls of candy. Debold said the cook told her the group threw $12 behind them and the chase ended.

But for Debold, the concern isn’t over the cost of a few candy bars. With the actual building of Lee Street Deli falling victim to vandalism she has started hiring people to sit in the store and watch for people stealing or vandalizing.

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