The owner of a local restaurant got the surprise of his life when he discovered a vital piece of equipment had been stolen.

“My first reaction was denial. I kept looking at the equipment that was torn open and I was trying to turn it on,” said Daniel Mancia, the owner of La Azteca Taco House.

Mancia was confused when he opened Monday morning, wondering why it was unusually hot inside his restaurant.

“I went up on the roof because there’s another set of breakers on the roof thinking it was maybe lightning or something like that happened,” Mancia said.

His business had been struck, not by lightning, but by thieves who stole essential components of his restaurant's H-VAC system.

“It was a couple of walking cooler motors and parts and then the big air conditioner,” Mancia said.

Mancia said his technician believes the thieves scrapped the metal for money.

“The most that they could get is maybe 200 dollars, and they generated close to $60-thousand worth of damage,” Mancia said.

The owner said he had no choice but to close up shop because there was no way to safely store food without working coolers or for his cooks to work in comfortable conditions.

“We lost two days of sales so far which is not a huge problem, but my guys have lost two days of wages,” Mancia said.

He said his insurer has approved a rental walk-in cooler to help store food, allowing him to open Wednesday. But with no air conditioning at the moment, he worries that the temperature inside might become unbearable.

“We're going to try to open and see how that works for the safety of kitchen staff because it gets really really hot. If it gets unsafely hot, we're going to have to close up again,” Mancia said.

One bright note, customers have been showing their support. One created a go-fund me page to help and others are offering personal loans or just a simple helping hand.

“The community has stepped up I am very thankful. The response we've gotten it really makes me feel appreciated in the community as a business,” Mancia said.

Copyright 2021 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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