News Column

Venice Cafe gets some help from friends after break-in

July 19, 2014

By Lilly Fowler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

July 19--There was a clear sign there had been trouble at Venice Cafe, a bohemian bar in St. Louis' Benton Park neighborhood.

On the sidewalk in front of the colorful, eclectic bar that manages to draw in people from all walks of life sat a sign Friday that read "Thieves suck." A week earlier, on July 12, the cash-only cafe had been robbed.

Within days, however, patrons of the bar began planning a fundraiser. And just short of a week after the burglary, friends and fans of the hangout gathered Friday night at 1900 Park, an art gallery and performance venue a couple miles away from the bar, to try to raise money for the establishment in its time of need.

Singer songwriters such as Jeremy Wright, 37, and Fred Friction, 56, were donating their talent and time on Friday, hoping to raise a few bucks.

"Venice Cafe is a staple of St. Louis," Friction said. "It's a tourist attraction as much as City Museum."

"Everybody cares about them."

Tim Haywood, 63, an abstract artist who sells his work for an average of $400 a piece debuted his latest work at the gallery on the day of the fundraiser.

And Janel Dahm-Tegtmeier, a curator at the gallery, planned to raise money for the cafe through a silent auction at the party. Fundraiser attendees would be bidding on a night's stay at Napoleon's Retreat Bed & Breakfast in Lafayette Square.

Chad Taylor, manager of Venice Cafe, and Jeff Lockheed, its owner, believe the thieves were able to break in by using an abandoned house next to the bar to jump onto the establishment's roof. With tools, tThe thieves then took off a window's metal guard, climb into the bar's office and bust open the safe, escaping with $7,000.

A computer that had just been purchased in February was also stolen.

Taylor and Lockheed are convinced the thieves know the cafe well. They say it was targeted on one of its busiest nights, when Jake's Leg, a Grateful Dead cover band, played.

"It's a big hit," said Taylor, noting that he believes the total damage to the cafe from the burglary amounted to about $14,000. Taylor said he would be happy with any amount raised. "If it raises $100 that's $100 that we didn't have to begin with."

Taylor said the city has already promised that the abandoned home will be boarded up. He also hopes officials clear out the derelict lot next to the house. Piles of wood, brick and other trash make the area a fire hazard, he said.

Both Taylor and Lockheed said they were humbled by how much people care about the future of the bar.

"We can't afford another break-in," Taylor said. "It will shut Venice Cafe down."

"It's that simple."

Lilly Fowler is the religion reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @LillyAFowler


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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

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