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Bob Kronbauer: Dirty thief confesses to dine and dash at Denny's in Vancouver

Making up for a 26-year-old crime before it's too late
You should always pay for your Denny's Grand Slam when you eat there

After 50 years in business the Denny's location on Southwest Marine Drive will be closing forever on Dec. 26. And while regulars are sharing their fond memories of the storied location I'm left hanging my head in shame with a confession to make.

My South Vancouver Denny's story is that I dined and dashed there in 1996, and I've felt guilty ever since.

Twenty-six years of Denny's theft regret is worse than what you'll feel even after making the grave mistake of ordering a skillet instead of a Grand Slam.

In my defense, it was the one and only time I've ever engaged in the practice of enjoying a meal and ducking out without paying the bill, and it wasn't my idea to skip out. But I did, and I never rectified it.

It was during the first month that I had moved to the city as a wide-eyed 18-year-old with the extremely bold goal of maybe not working as a gas station attendant for the rest of my life. The first job I got here when I arrived from the Okanagan was at the Esso at 70th Ave and Granville, in the neighbourhood of Marpole where I had moved.

A friend who had moved to the city a few months prior to my arrival took me out for a welcome dinner, and we agreed on the Marine Drive Denny's as we could walk there.

I enjoyed a burger and fries and my friend ordered deep-fried mozzarella sticks for us to share, as he said the tab was on him.

At the end of the meal, he said "Let's go," and I looked at him sideways, noting the obvious fact that we hadn't paid yet.

"Let's go," he repeated sternly as he stood up, then walked toward the exit.

Though I felt a bit like a hostage in the situation I understood the assignment as it were, and with my heart pumping I followed him like a sheep out that door. No words were exchanged and once we got to the edge of the parking lot we ran. Fast.

I never returned to that Denny's, and to this day I feel shame every time I drive by it.

Today I've donated $100 (plus $6 in fees) to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in memory of Denny's Marine Drive, as an apology and to make up a little bit for what I did.

As for the friend who took me out to Denny's, he took a slightly different path than I did - the last I heard he was doing time for holding up a liquor store in Red Deer.