After months without revenue during the pandemic, Melinda and Mike Dolmage finally reopened their tap house in September.
It didn’t go as planned.
The day The Lantern Tap House reopened, Sept. 12, Melinda Dolmage was in the hospital with a ruptured ovarian cyst. Sept. 15, they were burglarized. And Monday, it happened again.
“So it’s been a really bumpy ride,” Melinda Dolmage said.
The couple opened the tap house in 2012, following in the footsteps of The Shop cafe. Small, family-owned businesses like theirs kept the lights on at night and pushed crime out of the Perry Street District, Melinda said. They transformed Perry into “this cute little pocket neighborhood” that reminds Melinda Dolmage of her hometown of Portland.
The four Dolmage children grew up through the business. One of Melinda and Mike’s four children is named after a regular at the tap house. In the last couple years, Perry has become safe enough that Melinda Dolmage says she can let her kids play at Grant Park.
But the pandemic has nearly “reverted” the neighborhood, she said.
In a matter of about three weeks, The Shop, a cafe, has been burglarized three times by the same pair of burglars, owner Jeremiah Johnson said. The first two times, the burglars stole about 20 bottles of alcohol. The third time, Johnson and his wife, Yvonne Archer, had hidden the bottles.
On the night of the tap house’s first burglary, footage shows a pair of burglars shatter the Lantern’s large front window, which cost $5,000 to replace due to its fit in the 1910 building where “nothing is standard,” Melinda Dolmage said. The pair also took off with about $3,000 worth of top-shelf alcohol that had been on display.
Spokane police pulled over the suspected burglars, a 16-year-old boy and 20-year-old Jay Bolkeim, after a caller reported a suspicious vehicle, Sgt. John O’Brien said. One occupant of the car was bloody and an officer saw liquor bottles in the car. The two were charged with burglary.
Police are still investigating and haven’t made arrests in Monday’s burglary, O’Brien said.
This time, the burglars didn’t stick to bottles on display.
They took the cash register, which had about $150 in it. They broke the receipt printers, possibly thinking there was money inside, Melinda Dolmage guessed. Video shows a burglar rummaging through the kitchen and leaving with a bag of stolen goods the Dolmages haven’t identified yet. Then they went through the Lantern’s dry storage and took nearly every bottle of liquor there.
The cost of replacing the broken glass door, stolen alcohol and other losses will amount to about $6,000, she said.
“It’s already hard enough for restaurants to survive. I mean, it’s so hard right now,” Melinda Dolmage said. “Now to have these constant costs over and over – you’re just buried.”
To Melinda, the silver lining has been an outpouring of support from the neighborhood. Regulars Jeff and Patricia Robinson set up a GoFundMe for the Lantern, to which community members have donated more than $3,000.
Jeff Robinson and his employees managed to board up the window, took measurements and made arrangements to get it replaced.
“They did it behind our backs because, you know, we’re pretty bad at asking for help,” Melinda Dolmage said. “The support from the Perry community, that’s been the best part of it. You realize we do have a lot of love and support, and that makes it feel worth it.”
But Melinda worries burglars will be back.
Monday night, Johnson’s cameras also captured someone, he believes the younger of the two burglars, shining his flashlight in The Shop, “scoping us out.”
“What’s really disturbing – he wasn’t even sneaky; He wasn’t quick,” Johnson said. “He seemed so casual about it.”
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