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Biz Buzz: Thief steals area server's tips

Screen grab of the opening information from the video created and posted by Suns

After a busy work night, a single mother of two went to pick up her tips. She found an empty jar.

What happened next was a mixture of video surveillance sleuthing and social media crime solving. So while the story could have ended with the empty jar, it went beyond that.

On Jan. 13, the Sunshine Kitchen and Moonshine Lounge in Brainerd was bustling. The Mill Avenue restaurant/lounge was hosting a send-off party for Seth Doud, who was bound for NBC’s show “The Voice.”

After a busy night as a waitress in a packed house, Kristy Lemcke could expect upwards of $100 in her tip jar. When her employers Matt Taylor and Phillip Holbrook learned of the missing money the following day, they went to the surveillance video. On it, they saw a woman apparently nonchalantly holding a drink in one hand and reaching into the tip jar with the other.

They recorded the images off the surveillance camera and digital video recorder using an iPhone. They created a video, complete with red arrows pointing out the alleged thief and her accomplish who they believed acted as a look-out.

They started the video with this:

“On Jan. 13th, 2 thieves came into our place. But they didn’t steal from us. They stole the tips from one of our servers. A young lady that works for minimum wage and depends on her tips to support her kids. Please take a look at our video from that night. Hopefully someone will recognize these 2 women. We’ll probably never get Kristy’s money back.... but Public Humiliation can go a long way.”

And then they thought of putting the video they created on YouTube. A link was posted on their business Facebook page.

“We didn’t really think much would come of it,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of neat how it all worked out.”

The video went up Tuesday. More than 5,300 people viewed the video. By Thursday they had a call and what they believed to be definitive information on the two women they think were involved in the theft. A woman who recently became a friend of their Facebook page told her significant other about the video. He happened to be on the staff of a large area retail store and thought the women looked familiar. A few calls later and Taylor said they were able to pass on information about the suspects to the police department.

“We were pretty happy in the outcome,” Taylor said. “It’s such a crappy thing to do.”

There is little expectation, Lemcke will get her money back. But Taylor said there is vindication in providing the tips to the police for possible charges. They’ve since purchased a better video surveillance system.

“It kind of sends a message to the bad guys that you can’t come in and do anything without consequences.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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