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Search is on for restaurant burglar

Authorities are looking for a tip to identify a burglar who broke into the Margueritagrill on Wednesday morning, stealing a cash jar and causing extensive damage that forced the restaurant to close for a day.

The thief entered the Halls River Road restaurant through a roof vent, and once inside, stole a jar full of tip money valued at more than $500, according to an employee and sheriff deputies.

A surveillance video pegged the burglary at between 1:06 and 1:13 a.m. Investigators are reviewing the tape to identify a suspect, said Gail Tierney, a spokeswoman with the Citrus Sheriff's Office. She said investigators hope to release a picture of the suspect soon.

The break-in damaged the roof and the inside of the restaurant when the burglar tripped the fire alarm, which caused the release of a powder-like flame retardant, Tierney said.

It coated the restaurant and defaced the kitchen area. No damage estimate was available.

The clean-up forced the well-known patriotic restaurant to close Wednesday. It reopened Thursday afternoon, said server Tania Eckert.

"It's just a shame it all happened," she said Thursday.

Eckert helped close the restaurant Tuesday. She said the kitchen stopped serving at 9:30 p.m., earlier than normal so workers could paint inside the restaurant.

She said it's normal for servers to leave the tip jar full until the morning when bartenders and busboys divvy up the money.

While she was frustrated that she didn't get her share of the tips, Eckert hoped the manager would make it up to the employees.

"I just feel bad for him," she said. "We lost a lot of money from the damage and not being open."

John Frank can be reached at or 860-7312.