A pair of hooded thieves got through three locked fences early Friday to swipe an expensive smoker from a downtown Fresno barbecue restaurant.
Maria Metzger, owner of Just The Tip on the Mariposa Mall, said two people are seen on a video surveillance camera carting away the restaurant's smoker, the main piece of cooking equipment belonging to the business. The theft happened shortly after 1:30 a.m. Friday.
"It's very disappointing and frustrating," Metzger said. "But we are not going to let this defeat us. We are committed to being downtown and making it a better place."
A still photograph from the video shows two heavily clothed people pushing two loads of items. The load on the left, covered in a tattered tarp, is the restaurant's smoker. It's about 3 feet high and 2 feet wide.
Several people on Facebook said the thieves were so heavily cloaked that they looked something in Star Wars.
"It was obvious that they knew the camera was there and they did not want to be recognized," Metzger said.
Replacing the smoker will cost between $1,200 to $2,000. And Metzger said that isn't cash she has readily available.
"One way or another we will get the money together to get another smoker so we can be ready for the weekend," she said
The restaurant is one of the newest businesses to open near Fulton Street. It relocated from a spot near Fresno Community Regional Center about six months ago, just in time for Fulton's reopening to traffic.
Metzger said she was extremely lucky to be able to open on Friday. One of her cooks decided to try and get a head start on what is expected to be a busy weekend and smoked about 40 pounds of tri-tip on Thursday. She sold most of that on Friday.
The restaurant plans to be open this weekend.
If you have any information about the theft, you can call the restaurant at 559-570-8570