Welcome to Shit People Steal, in which we ask restaurateurs what items in their restaurant have been (or are frequently) stolen.
After 60 years in the business, Canlis obviously has its share of thievery tales. However speaking ill of guests goes against the restaurant's gold-star service ethos. So Eater brokered a deal with brothers Mark and Brian Canlis: some good stories, in exchange for the one-time only moniker of "Nice Shit People Borrow Permanently."
And the Brothers Canlis didn't disappoint. Some things, like spoons, are "just part of the deal," says Mark Canlis. However not every restaurant has to deal with wallpaper theft or a chase scene involving a giant helium balloon. The elder Canlis brother shared the following list of heists that span the decades:
1) The best was the helium balloon. In the 1980s we did the very first Bite of Seattle. We thought, ‘I know, we’ll bring attention to our little booth by having a big balloon that says Canlis.’ The thing was the length of a car and probably six feet high. Someone took it overnight. Our GM got a call that night from someone who says, ‘I just saw a Canlis balloon driving down Aurora Avenue, and thought you guys should know.’ The manager and the somm chased the guy down. They finally got behind his car, but the car pulled over and the guys ran off. So our guys untied it, tied it to their car, and called the police for an escort so they could drive back to the restaurant with a giant balloon tied to the car.
2) An antique sugar cane crusher [used as a decorative element]. These things are a couple hundred years old and weigh 260 to 300 pounds. Someone actually got one of those out of the restaurant, which was amazing. We had it by the door, but that’s still impressive.
3) Also, someone stole a 160-pound sterling silver antique duck press from Canlis in the 60s.
4) Wallpaper. Twice. One person even admitted it later to Brian. She said, ‘I love your wallpaper so much that I installed the exact same stuff in my home.’ He said, ‘oh, how did you know where we got it?’ She didn’t know how to respond. The wallpaper is from these guys on Whidbey Island. It’s amazing; they hand-make it and hand-press it on there. There was a big square of it cut off the wall in the ladies room. So someone had to cut it with an X-acto knife or a penknife or something. You stole wallpaper, people. Come on.
5) Silver creamers?full of cream. One woman took the whole set, the creamer, the sugar tray and the sugar. The bartender saw it and tried to call her out on it. He eventually got her to admit it was in her purse, which was a very awkward moment.
6) Our wine list gets jacked. They have strategic value; in the old days before your wine list was on the Internet people would just copy wine lists because you’ve done all the research on the wines.
7) Our gutters all got stolen. That was a bummer. It was three or four years ago, back when copper went through the roof, all of our gutters. That’s a lot of copper. It was all patina’d out; you had to really know it was copper. It looked brown.
8) Your silverware is going to get taken. But that’s normal. There is a well known Seattleite who is a total spoon klepto. That is always shocking to me. You’re a public personality.
9) There are a few things we tie down; all of our pillows are tied down. The very fancy one in the ladies room is Fortuny, which is this very fancy fabric from Italy. So it’s attached. Of course the last one was attached too.
10) Flowers. Getting flowers for your date: classy. Stealing flowers on the way out the door from the restaurant: not classy. We have this big arrangement in the front and on the way out, both men and women will just look at it; they always say something like 'wow, that's beautiful,' and then they gingerly reach out and take a flower with them. What are you doing? It's not smooth and those flowers are expensive. It's a romantic moment for them, but it's not romantic at all because it's stealing.