BANGOR, Maine — The owner of Giacomo’s promises to honor gift cards that the downtown eatery sold right up until it abruptly closed Dec. 24.
“I will make the gift cards good,” Brett Settle said. “I really don’t know [how] yet. Nobody’s going to get stuck.”
Settle said he is checking with the company he purchased the gift cards from to see whether he can honor them at the other restaurant he owns, Brahma Grill and Tavern, a Hammond Street steakhouse. Allowing cardholders to simply exchange them for cash is also a possibility, he said.
Giacomo’s customers were unaware it was being shuttered until white paper was plastered on the windows of the upscale coffee shop, which also sold sandwiches, pizza and pastries.
Brewer resident Michael Hallahan, who had been a Giacomo’s regular, said he was angry about the lack of notice.
Hallahan, who works at Fine Prints photography studio, said his wife, Lisa, bought him a $20 gift card just three days before Settle closed Giacomo’s.
“It’s not the money that’s the issue. He really shouldn’t have been selling it,” Hallahan said. “I don’t think anyone was upset that the business closed. That happens and owners make those kinds of decisions all the time. But I think he knew in advance, and it was his responsibility to let his employees know. And I think selling the gift cards was shady.”
Hallahan went to Brahma on Tuesday and got his wife’s $20 back from Settle.
Maine law does not specify how businesses should handle gift cards and other forms of pay-in-advance purchases when they close permanently. As of Tuesday, the state attorney general’s office had not received any complaints involving Giacomo’s unused gift and coffee cards.
Immediately after closing Giacomo’s, Settle told the BDN that he planned to reopen within six months and rehire his staff. Now, however, he has backed away from that promise and says he will do “whatever I feel like doing with the building” at 1 Central St.
Meanwhile, the Gofundme account created Dec. 28 to help Giacomo’s six suddenly unemployed workers has raised $1,235, according to a post on the fundraising website.
The fundraising drive was launched by Bangor resident Jodi Renshaw., who said her goal is to raise $500 per worker. Renshaw said she acted after seeing complaints on social media about the employees being let go without notice.
Renshaw, who grew up in the restaurant industry and once owned a Brewer tire shop, said she knows how difficult it is to make a go of a small business.
“I appreciate the owner [of Giacomo’s]. He’s a friend of mine, and I don’t know what led him to the circumstance. But instead of fighting and gossiping, we should do something to help these people,” Renshaw said.
The restaurant’s ex-workers are pleased and surprised that they will be getting a bit of financial help, Renshaw said: They “didn’t think everyone was paying attention.”