by Nancy Stiles
Scams aren't unusual in the restaurant business. There's always somebody who will try to get something for free. Last year we reported on the so-called "Scamwich Artist," a local man who duped several sandwich shops into giving him free food. Now, there's apparently a man posing as an army lieutenant at restaurants in the Loop.
So far, we've confirmed that he has hit Market Pub House (6655 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-8880) and Cicero's (6691 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-862-0009). The most puzzling aspect, though, is what exactly this "Lt. Gambit" stands to gain from the ruse.
Market Pub House general manager Robert Hazelwood tells Gut Check that a white man in his mid-to-late forties with brown hair and glasses came in dressed in fatigues on Sunday and stayed for almost two hours. He ate and drank like anyone else would, and paid his tab. However, Gambit then told Hazelwood that he had just returned from Afghanistan with his platoon and he'd like to bring them all back the next day for a big get together before they went home on leave.
Gambit ordered roughly $150 worth of food and said he needed it to be ready to serve the next evening for around 40 people. Normally, Market Pub House would require a deposit, and Gambit said it would be put on an army credit card that he didn't have. Hazelwood figured he was a military man, so he let it slide. The food was prepared the next day and he kept extra staff on to accommodate the soldiers. Except they never showed up.
The day after the supposed party, Tuesday, Hazelwood went to the Loop Small Business District Association and told his story so no other restaurants would be taken. A representative from Cicero's said it had an almost identical experience -- this supposed lieutenant had been in on Sunday night.
He gave the same story: A soldier just returned from Afghanistan who wanted to do something nice for his platoon before they all split up on leave. Manager Chad Jacobs took his order for the next night. Gambit wanted sixteen pounds of wings, 120 pizza rolls and eight pizzas to be ready to serve Monday night at 8:30. It's Cicero's policy to require a credit-card number and a $200 deposit on an order that large. Gambit told Jacobs that he had to go back to his Clayton and get the army credit card and would return to make the deposit. He never did.
Jacobs left a note regarding the order for the manager who opened on Monday, Karen McVicker Black. Black called the phone number left with the order. It was indeed a military number, but for a man who lived in suburban New York. He told Black he had gotten several calls from restaurants over the past two weeks asking about similar situations. Once Black realized what was going on, she canceled the ticket and Cicero's didn't make the food.
"It's a shame that happened to Market they made the food and all of that. Just another guy out doing havoc," Black says. "What the motivation is behind this person -- it's not a way for him to make money or get food. Who knows, but people are fucked up."