Bethel diner owner recounts break-in

By Vicki Hyatt | Oct 10, 2016
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Juke Box Junction owner Mike Graham stands near the cash register that was broken into during a late August robbery. The  restaurant no longer has cash on the premises when the store is closed.

BETHEL — After a late August break-in at Juke Box Junction in Bethel, restaurant owner Mike Graham made several changes to better protect his business.

Though less than $1,000 in cash was stolen, Graham had to cover costs to repair the cash register that was torn up during the perpetrator’s search for money and change out a lock. The restaurant didn’t open the Sunday following the Saturday late-night robbery, which meant a loss of business, as well.

Graham feels certain it was a former employee who robbed him because the individual knew the layout of the restaurant and was familiar with procedures which used to be followed, but now have changed.

The robbery was even caught on surveillance tape, but Graham doubts the images are clear enough for a conviction.

Using the Jukebox Junction Facebook page, Graham posted a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the thief, which generated information pointing to a specific former employee.

“I thought about it, and it made sense,” he said. “Fortunately, I changed protocol since then and there wasn’t a lot of cash in the register. It was also fortunate they came through the back window that was unlocked, so there wasn’t a lot of damage.”

The person breaking in, who Graham is almost certain was a woman, climbed up the back emergency steps and crawled over a railing. Had she fallen, she could have been hurt badly, he noted, since the drop off is so steep.

The surveillance footage shows the person was in the restaurant for 20 minutes trying to break open the cash register. Ironically, the black pouch taken in the robbery — one that used to contain cash before the process was changed — only had the key to both the cash register and the juke box.

Examining the footage of the night’s event contained other interesting happenings. One included a man in a pickup walking up to the restaurant door and slipping something into the outdoor ashtray. The parking lot camera also captured a vehicle with two people inside — a couple Graham suspects didn’t want to be seen together — interacting in the parked vehicle.

Ironically, the vehicle remained outside the entire time the robber was inside, causing the person to have to slip off the Jukebox Junction property by an unlikely route that wouldn’t have been used if the driver could have simply pulled into the parking lot.

Graham said law enforcement is doing what they can in the case, and he has since taken steps to further change his protocols so that no money will be left on the premises. He has also cut down shrubbery that obstructed surveillance cameras.

He looks at the incident as a vehicle for plenty of “earned media” coverage.

“The video got 40,000 hits on my Facebook page, and I was on television four times,” he said.  “This is the first time I’ve been hit in the 13 years I’ve owned the business. I’m glad it wasn’t something as brazen as an armed robbery.”