Thieves party at closed Bay Area restaurant during shelter in place

La Costanera, an elegant Peruvian restaurant overlooking the water in Montara, has been closed since the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order went into effect, but at least four people broke into the restaurant on March 21, stole cash, smashed cameras and drank sparkling wine — then lingered for 11 hours over the course of two days.

That’s according to Jorge Palacios, regional manager for Altamirano Restaurant Group, which runs several Bay Area Peruvian restaurants such as Mochica and Piqueo’s in San Francisco. Palacios said he discovered the mess at La Costanera on Tuesday and then watched the incident play out on surveillance video.

Palacios is now worried other restaurants that are temporarily empty and unguarded because of the coronavirus will be targeted.

“We’re in week one, and this already happened,” he said. “It was just liquor and some money, but it could get worse.”

Palacios said he locked up the restaurant as usual, but he found the doors damaged and tools — including a drill and an implement for cutting metal — left behind.

Since then, he has fixed the damage inside the restaurant as well as the back patio door, which the intruders used to break in.

Palacios replaced his busted security cameras and installed them higher, and he recommends other restaurateurs do the same.

“It’s just one of those things that we have to deal with,” Palacios said. “At least nobody got hurt.”

Some Bay Area restaurant and bar owners have already boarded up their restaurants in the event of unrest, including Bar Dogwood in Oakland and 20th Century Cafe in San Francisco.

Palacios said he had not tallied all costs from the burglary, but he said the damage will “definitely” exceed $10,000. Somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 worth of liquor was consumed, damage to the door cost $2,000, and $1,000 worth of damage was done to the restaurant interior, while it cost $300 to replace each camera.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the burglary, said Lt. Stephanie Josephson, an agency spokeswoman. She said no suspects had been identified as of midday Friday.

“Investigators are looking into everything,” Josephson said.