A couple who jumped on a $90 bill at a Redondo Beach family restaurant hit a manager with their car as he tried to block in the parking lot, the owners of the business said.
“They said they’d pay if he came over the side of the car, but at the time he wasn’t sure he could believe them,” Ragin Cajun Cafe co-owner Lisa Briton Hodges told the 525 S. Pacific. Coast Highway, said Wednesday, January 5. “And then they didn’t back down. They didn’t try to circumvent it. They gassed him.
The manager clung to the hood of the older model Chrysler on Monday afternoon as it sped through the parking lot, surveillance footage shows. He was thrown onto a sidewalk as the car made a sharp right turn and took off, south on PCH, Redondo Beach Police Sgt. said Mark Valdivia.
The victim suffered cuts and bruises but managed to avoid serious injury.
Afterwards, he “tried to play cool” but was “moving slowly” and seemed shaken by the ordeal, Hodges said. He declined to speak to the media and was due to return to work Wednesday afternoon after taking a day to recuperate.
The couple who tried to leave without paying their bill didn’t seem suspicious when they showed up on Slow Monday around 12.30pm, Hodges said. They asked to sit on the terrace and joked with the manager who was then hit by their car for finding a table in the nearly empty restaurant. He even warned them against ordering more food than they could eat, as they added some of the more expensive items on the menu to their tab.
The diner-and-dashers stuffed their leftovers into take-out boxes and headed out.
The manager picked up their bill and saw that they hadn’t left a payment. He then jumped over the railing surrounding the patio, ran to the car with the two inside, and stood in front of it.
Hodges said she and her husband and Ragin Cajun co-owner Steve Hodges don’t advise their staff members to sue people who bail out their checks, but she is touched by the injured employee’s selflessness. She described him as a dedicated and hardworking member of the restaurant’s ‘family’ who has been essential in helping them stay open during the pandemic.
She said staff members usually try to take a picture of a getaway vehicle’s license plate and file a report with police. But the manager “didn’t have his phone with him at the time, and I think it was just instinct for him,” Hodges said.
“And nothing happened of the other times we filed reports,” she added. “The police can’t do much.”
On Wednesday, investigators continued the search for clues and the search for witnesses.
Hodges said most people pay their bills, but it’s not uncommon for people to try to pull a quick one on his staff. She added that Ragin Cajun does not hold its employees responsible for the cost of stolen food, unlike some other restaurants.
“We eat that cost,” Hodges said. “But we’re a family business, and honestly, that ends up being felt from the managers to the waiters and all the way into the kitchen.”