Late in the evening, on Sept. 21, a tall man in a black sweater sauntered up to the bar at Max & Joe's Belgian Tavern, stretched dramatically, and snatched the ceramic pink elephant off the Delirium Tremens tap tower.
He spun around and handed the elephant to an accomplice, a woman with long, dark hair, who handed it to another accomplice, a man in a short-sleeved white shirt.
That guy nonchalantly tucked the elephant under his arm, and the group soon left the bar.
They'd just pilfered proof of just how much booze flows through Max & Joe's.
Not every bar receives a pink ceramic elephant the size of a small Nerf football for its Delirium Tremens tap tower, said Chris Bettini, who was tending bar the night of the heist. The Huyghe Brewery hands them out sparingly to establishments that sell a lot of the strong Belgian ale, he explained.
“There's only a few in town,” Bettini said.
The original definition of delirium tremens, by the way, is a torturous form of alcohol withdrawal said to make its sufferers see pink elephants. Hence the beer's mascot.
“Obviously, these people were a little in their pink elephant zone when they stole it,” Bettini said.
More likely, they were still wasted. But as they sobered up, they saw one very specific pink elephant — the one from Beer Corner USA — the bar conglomerate at 36th and Farnam Streets that includes Max & Joe's, Crescent Moon and other entities. They might have guessed that the Beer Corner staff — and their angry Facebook friends — were taking steps to get that icon back.
As it turns out, the thieves took the treasure right in front of a security camera. They knew this — before leaving the bar, they actually turned and waved, making the crime extra-infuriating to staffers.
The staff turned to the Internet to catch the criminals, posting the following on Facebook the day after:
“To whomever took the Delirium Tremens elephant off the tap tower in Max & Joe's Belgian Tavern last night during Oktoberfest ... You did it right in front of our security camera. If you know who took it, tell them to return it — no questions asked.”
Otherwise, they said, they'd post a picture and seek IDs.
The weekend came and went. No elephant.
Monday, just after lunch, Bettini followed through on his threat.
He posted videos of the group before, during and after the theft, drawing thousands of views and dozens of comments from the bar's Facebook friends.
Does anyone know this jackwagon?
i hope these scumbags get caught!!
And those are the ones we can print.
Hours later, two women walked into the bar with a paper grocery bag.
“They set it down, and by the time I got the bag open, they were out the door and gone,” said Branden Ciciulla, who was bartending at the time.
They may have been the women in the security video, he said. It was hard to say.
The elephant had made his triumphant return. So he immediately embarked on a victory tour.
He visited Bettini's house. He hitched a ride to the bar in a beer truck, where he found romance, hanging out with a Barbie dressed for Oktoberfest. He enjoyed the nightlife, drinking a shot with some ladies at the Crescent Moon Alehouse, after first hitting the ATM at the Huber Haus German Bier Hall.
And now he's back at Max & Joe's, though not yet on his regal throne. The bartenders have been posting photos of his travels on Facebook one at a time, so to readers, he still has a way to go.
But don't be surprised if a photo of his return to the tap shows up as one of the final Facebook chapters.
After all, that's where the investigation began.
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