West Seattle restaurant paying it forward is burglarized

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SEATTLE -- It’s a tough time to run a restaurant, but Dan Austin will be the first one to tell you that he still believes in paying it forward.

We highlighted the generosity of Austin and other restaurant owners in West Seattle who rallied the community to provide free meals to first responders, service industry workers and anyone who could use a free meal.

“Right now it hurts to give, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Austin, the owner of Peel & Press. “To have someone come in and jeopardize that really frustrates me.”

The pizza restaurant on California Avenue was broken into and damaged on Saturday morning. Surveillance video captured two suspects finding their way in through the back door, and using tools to smash through the wall.

“They punched through here thinking they were going to get into Starbucks,” said Austin. “ [They] had a tool to actually cut the wall open but for some reason they gave up on it and left.”

Austin said the suspects are “professionals” at breaking and entering. “They did it in a way they didn’t have to open the door. They took the glass paneling out so it didn’t trip the alarm.”

Peel & Press joined together with four other restaurants and have so far donated over 1,400 meals. The news of the break-in was just as disappointing to loyal customers.

“We actually donated a couple times,” said customer Eric Lemar. “It’s very sad because it’s definitely one of those places you come here for the food, but you also come here for the community.”

The restaurant office was ransacked, there are holes in a few different spots of the restaurant and the back door is covered up in boards. Austin said the damage is going to cost a few thousand dollars out-of-pocket.

It’s money he would’ve preferred spending on the Pay a Meal Forward program.

“We’ve been helping people. If this person needed a meal, if they broke in because they needed food for their family, we would’ve done that for him. We would’ve done it happily and given it to him on a Monday,” said Austin.

Austin said he’s thankful for the community support, and customers who are checking in on the restaurant and its staff.

Austin said he plans on moving forward with the free meal program on Tuesday this week. The free meals are usually donated on Monday’s.

“They may have broken our door but they didn’t break us,” said Austin. “We’re going to be here. We’re going to fight.”

Seattle Police are investigating. If you have any information about this crime, you can submit a tip to Crimestoppers on your P3 Tips App on your phone.

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