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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Napa East gift card holders need not despair – yet

NASHUA – As customers, and even employees, of Napa East Wine Lounge & Shop continue to question the reasons for its abrupt closure Tuesday, one group of would-be diners are asking another question: What happens to my gift certificate?

Several certificate-holders were among the scores of people who posted comments on Napa East’s Facebook page after Tuesday’s announcement, and others contacted The Telegraph on Wednesday looking for answers. ...

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NASHUA – As customers, and even employees, of Napa East Wine Lounge & Shop continue to question the reasons for its abrupt closure Tuesday, one group of would-be diners are asking another question: What happens to my gift certificate?

Several certificate-holders were among the scores of people who posted comments on Napa East’s Facebook page after Tuesday’s announcement, and others contacted The Telegraph on Wednesday looking for answers.

While the state Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, which regulates services and products that include gift certificates and cards, doesn’t specifically address what happens to gift certificates when a store or restaurant closes, the head of the bureau said Wednesday that the bureau “generally takes the position that the business owner is responsible for making restitution to the certificate holders.”

Assistant state Attorney General David Rienzo suggested that certificate holders file a complaint with his office, a process that can be completed online by going to the Consumer Protection and Antitrust page (www.doj.nh.gov/consumer/index.htm) and clicking on the “Consumer Complaints” link on the right side.

Those who file a complaint can submit the form electronically or print it out and send it to the bureau at the address listed on the website. Anyone with questions can contact Rienzo’s office at 271-3643.

Should Napa East eventually file for bankruptcy, Rienzo said, it would become more difficult for certificate holders to receive restitution.

So far, Napa East owner Joanna Mahoney has given no indication whether bankruptcy is in the restaurant’s future.

But the fact that she used the word “restructure” in her announcement indicates a chance that Napa East may reopen, perhaps in a different format, in the future.

Mahoney wouldn’t elaborate on that topic when she spoke briefly Tuesday, and phone and email messages left for her Wednesday weren’t returned.

Meanwhile, certificate-holders like Nashua resident Jennifer Matthews say they can only hope for the best.

“I had one from Christmas, and I just won another in a March of Dimes fundraiser,” Matthews said, adding that the two certificates total $150. “I’m really hoping they reopen. We love it there.”

Matthews even called Napa East her and her husband’s “favorite restaurant,” citing the atmosphere and quality of the food. While she hopes her certificates aren’t worthless, Matthews said she’s “more worried about the employees” who suddenly found themselves out of work.

Several employees who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday said they learned of the closure via “mass text message” during the July 4 holiday weekend.

Deborah Gray, also a Nashua resident, said the closure is unfortunate all around. “I just feel badly for the person who gave it to us,” she said of the certificate, the value of which is $100.

Napa East also sells wine by the bottle in its adjacent retail shop, which could make it easy for Gray and others to redeem their certificates, she said.

“I’m wondering, if everything isn’t liquidated, if they’d do something like that,” Gray said.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).