SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - NewsChannel 3 has a follow-up to a story we shared with viewers at the beginning of April. It is a "buyer beware" for customers purchasing gift cards, both locally and nationally, during the pandemic.
William Santoro reached out to NewsChannel 3 back in March of this year. The Montecito resident was holding a $500 dollar gift card he purchased from Fish Enterprise Co. during a promotional event at the beginning of 2020. He paid $425 dollars.
"The Enterprise Fish Company is one of our favorite restaurants for many years,” said Santoro.
Months later, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the owners of the popular seafood restaurant closed the doors at the landmark site after more than 40 years on lower State St.
"I never used it at all, a dime from it,” said Santoro. "I just wish that some of the city officials would step in a little more vigorously when they're issues like that because you know, if anybody wants to do business in Santa Barbara, they have to protect their reputation."
"There's no law that just says, 'If the company goes out of business you can go straight to the owner.' That doesn't exist under the law,” Deputy District Attorney Christopher Dalbey told NewsChannel 3 at the time.
We reached out to the D.A.’s Office to see if the staff was looking into similar gift card issues with other businesses that had closed during the pandemic. Dalbey said he and his colleagues had not received any complaints.
NewsChannel 3 aired the story despite unsuccessful attempts to connect with someone associated with Fish Enterprise Co.
“About two days after your telecast I received a letter from the owner of Enterprise,” said Santoro.
Michael Bank, former co-owner of Fish Enterprise Co., also reached out to NewsChannel 3.
"He said if I would send him the gift card back, they would verify the amount due for refund and send me a check, which they did within another three or four or five days," said Santoro. "I'm very grateful to you for that."
To this day, Santoro, like so many others, wishes the Fish Enterprise Co. would reopen. Bank said, sadly, that's not going to happen.
In the meantime, Santoro, a seafood lover, is fishing for a new favorite dining spot in town. And, now with fond memories of his old haunt.
"I'm pleased with the way the company responded."
NewsChannel 3 wants to thank Michael Bank and his wife, Kathy, for their honesty and willingness to resolve William Santoro's gift card issue. Mr. Bank made the effort to reach out to our anchor/reporter, Beth Farnsworth, to make things right for Santoro.
Dalbey said the District Attorney's Office is "grateful" that Mr. Santoro was able to get his money back, which is rare in most cases when businesses close.