OAKLAND PARK, FLA. (WSVN) - Authorities have started their search for a driver who crashed into an Oakland Park restaurant and fled the crash scene before they arrived, and the crash was not the first setback for the business owners.

The Mason Jar, a cozy grill and pub on Oakland Park Boulevard just west of U.S. 1, is a favorite among locals.

However, early Wednesday morning, a dark-colored Audi smashed into the business’s patio, knocking the overhang to the ground. Tables and chairs were crushed, and the Audi involved is likely totaled.

Manager Julie Rado received a call from investigators regarding the incident.

“I was hoping it was just, like, a window or something, and I got in and I saw it all on the floor, and I was speechless,” she said.

Richard Mercede, who owns the building, shared Rado’s feelings.

“At first, I really thought that he was pulling my leg or something,” Mercede said. “I looked at the cameras, and sure enough, you see the car driving right through the drive-thru.”

Wednesday’s crash was not the first setback for the small restaurant.

The Mason Jar opened a week before the coronavirus pandemic struck South Florida. The virus caused restaurants like theirs to shut down to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“They opened up a week before the pandemic,” Mercede said. “Thank goodness for that drive-thru and the outdoor patio. That’s what did it for them.”

“It worked out with the pickup window and all the pickup orders and being on Uber and DoorDash, and all that really helped out,” Rado said.

The building’s owner said that if the restaurant can survive the pandemic, rebuilding the patio should be a breeze.

“When he called me this morning, he says, ‘I can’t open today,'” Mercede said. “I said, ‘No, you’re opening. You’re opening. Just like you opened a year ago, you’re gonna open. We’re going to get you back open. Everything’s going to be fine.'”

If you have any information on the driver’s whereabouts, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.

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