Urth Caffe faces vandalism before January opening

The Orange County Police Department is investigating three reports of vandalism at Urth Caffe. The front windows have repeatedly been broken with rocks, which costs the restaurant about $20,000 for each repair. Photo by Gabriella Anderson

In November, a hooded man rode up to Urth Caffe in the Orange Plaza on a skateboard, pulled granite rocks out of his satchel and chucked them at the windows of the building. The building was vandalized in July, on Nov. 4 and again Nov. 12, said Matt Tobey, the Urth Caffe area manager for Orange County.

“We were saddened ourselves,” he said. “It was quite an excessive attack on the building.”

While the vandal is still at large, the Orange County Police Department is investigating the crimes.

Urth Caffe now uses protective coating on their windows to reduce the likelihood of shattering, as the broken windows from each incident cost the restaurant around $20,000 to replace. Urth Caffe is also working with Orange to install more security cameras at the location.

“Hopefully the city can help us be proactive in identifying the individual and keeping eyes and ears out so we can work together to keep a safe community,” Tobey said.

The restaurant was also vandalized with spray paint, but it wasn’t caught on camera, so it is unknown if the acts are related.

“Someone … spray painted all over our signs, the side of the building and on the glass, and we had to spend some time scraping it all off,” Tobey said.

Tobey said there are no identified motives for the vandal’s actions, and he couldn’t confirm or deny whether the crimes could be related to a new restaurant opening in the historic building. All of the Urth Caffe restaurants are located at preserved sites, so the restaurant’s management is used to restoring historical structures.

“We’ve run (the vandalisms) by our legal team and they don’t see a motive. We don’t have any enemies, so we don’t have any people that would do this intentionally,” Tobey said. “We’ve spoken with some of the neighboring (restaurants and liquor store) that said when they opened, they received some similar instances of vandalism.”

Before Urth Caffe began its construction, it first had to restore the building’s structure – which housed law offices in the late 1800s – without damaging the historic infrastructure. The restaurant has worked closely with the Orange Community Historical Society and Marissa Moshier, Orange’s historic preservation planner, to ensure the construction process follows protocol.

Moshier told The Panther that the restoration process mainly consisted of uncovering, restoring and reconstructing the elements of the 1800s version of the building.

“The building originally had a plaster finish that was covering up the original historic brick, so the Urth Caffe team removed the plaster from the exterior of the building to recover the historic brick,” Moshier said. “They restored the storefront along (West Chapman Avenue) and the windows along the Plaza, and then retrofitted the building for restaurant use with offices upstairs.”

The incidents of vandalism have contributed to the restaurant’s delayed opening for the restaurant, since discussion of an Orange location has been circulating since 2015 – but organic food enthusiasts don’t need to wait much longer, as the restaurant will hosts its opening party the afternoon of Jan. 6. Tobey declined to provide the exact time of opening or details about the event to The Panther.

“When we open a store, it’s very grandiose and a welcome to the community,” he said. “Without giving away too many details, you’ll want to be in the circle on that Sunday afternoon.”