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Burglar Steals Safe From East Hollywood Mexican Restaurant, Runs Up $80,000 In Damages and Stolen Gear

The burglar was wearing a white hoodie and spray-painted the lens of the security cameras. Insurance will only cover $20,000. The owner of El Zarape Melrose says he doesn’t know if this was personal or just a delinquent act by a stranger: “I’m sad, I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”

2:44 PM PST on February 27, 2024

    In the early Monday morning hours of February 26th, Beto Mendez found his regional Mexican restaurant on Melrose Avenue in the East Hollywood area burglarized, vandalized, and mostly destroyed. The walls were spray painted, countertops and windows smashed, and his equipment and office looted, including his safe.

    This devastation couldn’t have happened at a worse time, being that just two weeks prior, the mother of his two girls passed away. “I’m sad, I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” Mendez tells L.A. TACO.

    The burglars spray-painted the camera lens and inside the restaurant. Photos via Beto Mendez.

    By his estimates, Beto believes he’ll need between $50,000 to $80,000 to repair and reopen his restaurant. He just learned that his insurance will only cover up to $20,000. “It’s my ignorance,” he admits, “I don’t know how to read these policies or coverages. I should have understood them better.”

    The burglars also spray-painted the inside of the restaurant's bathrooms. Photos via Beto Mendez.

    Security cameras show one individual walking in with a white-hooded fleece. His face was difficult to make out before he spray-painted the cameras black. Beto has filed a police report, but no arrests have been made, and no suspects have been named.

    The burglar was wearing a hoodie. Photos via Beto Mendez.

    According to Beto, he doesn’t know if this was personal or just a delinquent act by a stranger.

    El Zarape on Melrose opened seven years ago and has been a neighborhood favorite since day one. With its spicy micheladas, crispy chilaquiles, and regional taco specialties like cochinita pibil and chicken mole, this tiny restaurant on Melrose was a destination for locals and anyone searching for a good taco.

    A GoFundMe has been set up with the hopes that Beto, his girls, and his restaurant can quickly get back on their feet during these devastating moments they’ve experienced in these couple weeks.

    A plate of tacos on handmade tortillas. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

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