HOUSTON — Houston restaurant and bar owners are sleeping inside their establishments in an effort to stop bandits from raiding their liquor shelves and cash registers.
For weeks, thieves have broken into their businesses, stealing thousands of dollars in cash and alcohol and causing significant damage each time.
The owners said they never imagined they’d have to spend every night in their bars with guns waiting for burglars.
Glitter karaoke in Midtown plays host to a party almost every night of the week. But after 2 a.m., when the music stops and all the singers go home, others have been breaking their way into the bar.
“We’ve been broken into six times now," Glitter owner Tod Jones said.
Surveillance cameras capture what has been happening at the karaoke bar while Jones is at home asleep.
“They’re coming in, grabbing as many bottles as they can, throwing it in a bag and then they’re out," Jones said. "Both my windows are broken, and I’m like, 'Man, I don’t even want to fix them because they’re going to be broken again in the next few days.'”
Jones estimates thieves have cost him more than $20,000.
“At this point, you don’t even want to claim it on your insurance," Jones said. "Because you don’t want to lose your insurance. You just have to fix it yourself.”
The tiredness in his eyes is from the restless nights at the bar, where he now sleeps until daylight in order to protect his property.
"We don’t know what to do anymore," Jones said. "We can’t do anything. It’s, like, what’s the point of even trying.”
Jones is not alone.
Raul Jacobo opened Cobos Barbecue in EaDo with his wife 18 months ago.
“It’s hard work but it’s rewarding," Jacobo said. "And now, it’s just a nightmare.”
He has also been sleeping at his restaurant and bar every night.
"Bottom line ... we’re tired," Jacobo said.
His surveillance cameras show what’s been happening.
"So, on Tuesday, he comes through the front door," Jacobo said. "Throws a brick through our front glass door. And he’s got a military sack, and he knows exactly where to go and he cleans us out of all of our liquor.”
After his bar was hit twice in less than two weeks, he has hardly been able to leave his business. Instead of being asleep at home with his wife, he’s in the back office with a gun.
"If we have to protect our property, if we feel vulnerable or terrified for our lives and we have to do what we have to do, it’s on the city’s hands," Jacobo said.
The owners said Houston Police Department officers respond each time there is a break-in, but so far, nothing has been able to put an end to the burglaries.
“We are literally one street away from an (HPD) substation and we have a criminal that is breaking in twice in four days and doesn’t care about any consequence," Jacobo said.
Jacobo said he has law enforcement officers in his family and is an advocate for the police. He said he thinks they are doing what they can. But not even the time Jones and the bar's security guard caught a burglar with their own hands could put an end to the crimes.
"He took off running when he saw us, but we ran him down, and we detained him," Jones said. "Police got there, he had his bag with all his tools in it, ski mask. Then, next thing I find out, he’s out the next day.”
An HPD spokesperson said detectives are actively investigating the numerous bar break-ins and are collaborating with business owners to identify and capture the suspects. The HPD spokesperson said the department increased patrols in the areas of the burglaries during peak hours.