Italian restaurant in Sussex installs 16 CCTV cameras after spate of dine and dash incidents

  • WATCH: Video shows three women clock up £300 restaurant bill, leave without paying - and then one comes back to take her drink

An Italian restaurant in Sussex has been targeted by people dining and dashing, three times since October.La Bella Vista in St Leonards on Sea has lost more than £1,000 in trade after customers ordered food and left without paying.

Aldo Esposito, who owns the restaurant, has now installed 16 CCTV cameras in a effort to stop any more incidents taking place.

In one incident, caught on CCTV, three women leave the restaurant after racking up a bill of more than £300, one of them is seen coming back to take her drink.

  • ITV News Meridian's Tom Savvides spoke to the restaurant owner about the problem

Aldo Esposito said: "I feel disappointed and frustrated with the situation because we put a lot of love and effort into the business and dealing with situations like this is very disheartening.

"At the moment, running a business, a family business like this, it's quite difficult due to the financial situations.

"So when people come here and take advantage it's you know, it's hard to take.

"I want people to feel comfortable and relax when they come into a restaurant. But now we look at we have to look at every single customer and sort of analyse them a little bit, which is not something we want to do.

Three women were seen on CCTV clocking up bill of £313.98 for alcoholic beverages, then leaving without paying. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Sussex Police says enquiries are ongoing to identify the suspects.

Sussex Police Ch Insp Jay Mendis-Gunaskera said: "We're really proactive with our business crime teams.

"We work with local businesses to support our communities and try to bring the offenders of these types of crimes to justice."

La Bella Vista was featured on ITV Meridian in January after previously being victim to dine and dash criminals.

Cafe Number 35 in Canterbury also fell victim to this type of crime, when a man and two children left without paying for their breakfasts and drinks.

  • Hospitality UK say leaving a businesses without paying is not a victimless crime.

Kate Nicholls, Hospitality UK said: "This is crime, this is fraud, it’s exactly the same as shoplifting and the impact on the businesses is huge... and we are seeing incidents increase.

"We know that independent businesses are struggling post-covid. A third of them are operating at or below break-even. A quarter of them have no cash reserves.

"This is taking much-needed cash from those businesses. It’s not a victimless crime.

"For many it will be the final nail in the coffin which could mean the loss of that business because it is substantial sums of money.

"Businesses need to be vigilant, staff need to be vigilant too. Make sure they are in constant communication with tables, that the bill is presented on time, promptly and that payment is sought."

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