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Community rallies to support Toronto bar owner after break-in

A Toronto bar owner already struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic had her business broken into this week, but Caitlin Burrell says the local community has rallied behind her, offering support and financial assistance.

Burrell said she received a call from police Tuesday morning advising that there had been a break-in at her business, the Bluebird Bar, located on Dundas Street just east of Roncesvalles Avenue.

“The front door was smashed in and cash was stolen from the premises,” Burrell told Global News.

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“I think just with this pandemic … I was laughing with other bar owners, it’s like you’re working so hard to lose so much. Like you just feel like you’re constantly working to get nowhere…

“And when I heard [about the break-in], I was like, ‘I can’t do this. I’m done.’”

Burrell said after she got to the business, she posted a photo of the smashed front door online and not long after, the community began offering support.

“I had customers within 15 minutes stopping by offering to help clean up, offering words of support and encouragement,” she said.

Burrell said her parents came and helped her clean up the mess left behind, and without her knowledge, the owner of another bar across the street started a GoFundMe page to help pay for the damages and losses.

Dawn-Marie Rawding, the owner of The Commoner Roncy, said after she saw what happened, she felt she had to help.

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“I think I’m just doing what any neighbour would do when they see somebody who’s going through a little crisis, is just to help reach out,” Rawding said.

“Caitlin’s already been struggling and the Blue Bird’s been struggling like most restaurants through this pandemic. So, [when] something like that happens, you just want to help.”

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As of Wednesday evening, the GoFundMe page had raised more than $4,800 of a $2,000 goal.

“It turned from being a really bad day to a day that was much better than it could’ve been,” Burrell said. “It’s just unbelievable. Everyone in this neighbourhood is so generous and so supportive.”

She added that other than some cash, nothing else was stolen from the bar.

She said throughout the pandemic, as she has had to work through tight restrictions for many months, the community and neighbourhood are what have kept her motivated.

“It’s been really hard … You just do it because you just keep going and the option of quitting just isn’t really an option,” she said.

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