Evan Brown, owner of Portalli's in Ellicott City, had come to survey the damage to his Italian restaurant Sunday afternoon following the disastrous flood that ravaged the historic district when he ran into a woman walking out, arms full of liquor bottles.
Brown was incredulous. The whole first floor had already been wrecked; floodwaters had overturned furniture and poured mud and tree limbs though the kitchen, windows and dining room. He'd had to evacuate customers and employees. Now this?
Brown confronted the woman, and grabbed some of the bottles from her before she ran away. He reported the theft to police, and he believes she lives nearby and will soon be charged. A young man was later seen walking out of the restaurant with a bulging trash bag, he said.
The thefts followed a disastrous flood Saturday night that killed two people and caused enormous damage to the historic business district.
Portalli's chef Keith Holsey said restaurant management was able to empty the cash registers before evacuating to higher ground, but that thieves had taken "everything from booze to pictures off the wall" after the flood.
The restaurant's approximately 30 employees, and about 60-100 patrons inside at the time of the flood, were unharmed, Holsey said.
Holsey said he wasn't working at the time of the flood, but got a call about it and went to the restaurant about 9 p.m. Saturday.
He said he was unable to access the restaurant during cleanup efforts Sunday afternoon. Given all the flood damage, it's unclear exactly how much was stolen.
"It's kind of surreal when you think about it," Holsey said.
The inside of the restaurant was strewn with mud and overturned furniture Sunday afternoon, and a chair and a tray stand lay propping open a doorway.
Maryland State Police will assist local agencies with providing 24-hour security of the damaged area, officials said Sunday afternoon.
Howard County Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said police had received a report of theft from Portalli's and would investigate. No further details were available.