Flaco’s Cuban Bakery was closed for the night when employees spotted a white trash bag by the front door Wednesday.
When the two employees opened the bag at about 3 a.m., they found a $350 painting of a rhino — one that was missing from the restaurant for nearly two weeks.
“He probably didn’t want any more trouble,” said Flaco’s co-owner Sara Puyama of the return. No one has identified the thief or the person who returned the painting.
At 2:17 a.m. Feb. 25, a surveillance camera captured an unknown man taking the painting off the wall and walking out of the restaurant during the early morning rush, Puyama said.
“Two a.m. at Flaco’s is always a little crazy,” she said, adding that the restaurant was understaffed that night because one of the employees was sick. She said she noticed the painting was gone the next day but thought the artist, Milan Hooper, had taken it.
Four days later, Hooper called her and asked where the painting was.
“That’s when we figured it out,” Puyama said.
She shared a photo of the man taking the painting on Facebook while Hooper said he reported the theft to Gainesville Police on Monday, prior to the painting’s return.
This is the second time a painting has been stolen from the restaurant, but the first time the missing artwork was returned.
“He must have felt the heat, is all I can figure,” Hooper said.
Hooper said he plans to sell the painting and won’t bother continuing to look for the man.
“If we really wanted to do more detective work, we could, but I don’t really give a damn,” he said. “I got the painting back.”
Contact Meryl Kornfield at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @MerylKornfield
A video camera catches an unknown man stealing a painting from the wall of Flaco’s Cuban Bakery. The painting of a rhino was returned almost two weeks later to the front door of the restaurant.