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For five years Gil Short, owner of Shorty’s Diner on Merrimac Trail has enjoyed serving the public with great food, good cheer and camaraderie.
But when burglars broke into the popular eatery James-York Plaza Sunday morning, it wasn’t the break-in that hurt as bad as it was the property damage he saw.
“We keep no money on the premises. The vandalism was pretty disappointing,” Short said. “We’ve created a nice little niche for the local market. You’re pretty proud of a place. You see it all torn up. That is disheartening.”
Vandals allegedly broke into the iconic restaurant around 2:35 a.m., gaining entry through the back, according to a York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office police report. They destroyed the video monitoring system, ransacking the office and cash registers.
Burglars clipped the wires upon entry to dismantle the exterior cameras, according to Short. Once inside, they ran screwdrivers through the receipt machine, used to ring up sales, and destroyed the surveillance cameras and computer system.
All told, Short estimates $20,000 in damages to the restaurant’s equipment, including the point-of-sale machine, the computers and to have the remove the graffiti.
“We are replacing our surveillance camera with a more upscale version with sirens and strobe lights,” Short said.
Outside the diner, vandals also spray-painted graffiti around the door and the exterior brick wall with expletives and other references.
The graffiti appears to be related to a local street gang, but the burglary itself has not been confirmed as gang-related, said Lt. Dennis Ivey of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office.
Short is an architect by trade. He spent 40 years in the horse race-track development business, including as the designer of the now-closed Colonial Downs property, formally located in New Kent County. He went into the diner business post retirement.
“Horse people get up at 4:30 a.m.,” he said. “What do you do at 4:30 a.m. You can’t play golf.”
Short said he is pleased with the efforts from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office and thanks them for their swift response to help Shorty’s open in a timely manner, though it was a little tough without the receipt machine, he said.
“After the investigation, we opened at 8:30 a.m.,” Short said. “We figured it out.”
Sarah Fearing contributed reporting to this story