REGION — A rash of break-ins and reports of burglaries at breweries, tasting rooms and wineries across the region has the San Diego libations community on edge.
Surveillance footage from at least several of the incidents, which began in late March, appear to show the same person breaking glass doors at the breweries and attempting to steal money from the registers.
Originally believed to be isolated to about five locations across the county, now as many as 18 breweries from as far north as Temecula Murrieta and throughout Vista, Oceanside, Rancho Bernardo, San Marcos and as far south as Scripps Ranch and Sorrento Valley have reported burglaries and vandalism.
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? 6:19AM this morning we had a BREAK IN!! WATCH THE VIDEO… Dude made off with an empty cash drawer! ??♂️??The assailant was driving a 2015 (ish) white Jeep Patriot (or similar). He was wearing Black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, DC shoes (possibly pure model), stands roughly 6’ tall, fairly slim build… He knew exactly where the cash drawer was, so we believe he’s been here before. Luckily the alarm sounded immediately so he didn’t have much time to “shop”. If you recognize the vehicle or the man, please let us know asap & call the Oceanside PD. And dude if you’re done with it, we would be stoked to get our empty drawer back. ? but also ???. . We have been told its possibly the same guy who’s targeting many north county breweries such as @barrelharborbrewing @ironfistbrewing & @goldencoastmead . Definitely dedicating some time to getting this scumbag. Happy #nationalbeerday . ?
“They obviously had scoped out these locations, they knew exactly where the cash drawer was,” said Eve Sieminski, co-owner of Iron Fist Brewery in Vista and Barrio Logan. The Vista location was one of the first to be hit in late March.
Sieminski said that there was no cash in the drawer, so they only had to deal with the property damage of a shattered glass door.
“It’s definitely got everyone talking about it,” she said of the incidents.
Police in three jurisdictions — Oceanside, San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, which contracts with San Marcos, Vista and the unincorporated areas — are investigating these incidents, but have yet declared that they are part of a series or committed by the same person.
“It is still too early to determine if this is a series,” said Billy Hernandez, an officer and spokesman with the San Diego Police Department. “The cases are all spread out through a few divisions and detectives are currently working them.”
San Diego County is home to one of the most active brewing and winemaking regions in the United States. There are more than 130 breweries countywide, which in 2017 had an economic impact of $1.1 billion in output and $802 million in revenue, according to the 2018 Economic Impact of Craft Breweries in San Diego County Report.
At least 115 wineries actively operate in the county that generate a $50 million economic impact, according to a similar report on the impact of the winemaking industry on San Diego’s economy.
Kris Anacleto, this year’s San Diego Brewers Guild vice president, is the CEO and co-owner of Booze Brothers of Vista, one of the locations that was targeted. Anacleto called the incidents “unfortunate.”
“It’s unfortunate that someone is attempting to take advantage of breweries like this,” Anacleto said. “Thankfully, our brewery community looks out for each other and has really stepped up to let our fellow neighbors know what’s going on. Hopefully this serves as a reminder that we all need to take safety precautions at our establishments and keep safety and security a priority. Our brewery was lucky that this individual failed to get in and I hope that it’s only a matter of time before this person is caught.”
Brewers who spoke to The Coast News said they aren’t sure why the locations have been seemingly suddenly targeted, but said that the person or people involved are looking for the money.
Sieminski said that surveillance footage from the Iron Fist location, Black Plague Brewing in Oceanside and Longship Brewery in Sorrento Valley appear to show the same person in a hooded sweatshirt breaking into the location and grabbing the cash box and leaving.
Black Plague posted the video on social media last week to raise awareness to the public about the incidents.
Sieminski said that while police investigate the incidents, brewers who haven’t been victimized need to remain vigilant. She said that a 2011 break-in taught her company to not leave money in cash registers overnight and to lock other valuables in safes.
“That (2011 incident) taught us a lot of stuff, we put a security door on our glass door, and locked up our cash and we are safe about what we do,” Sieminski said. “If I could tell everyone who hasn’t been hit anything, it would be to put all precautions in play, lock your stuff up.
“If he wants to steal beer or a T-shirt then go for it, but lock up anything that is valuable, and put it all away at night,” she said.