Nfld. & Labrador

Bianca's gift cards no longer accepted at Bistro Sofia and Black Sea

People holding gift cards from a recently closed restaurant in St. John's are upset that they can no longer be used.

Costco in St. John's still accepting cards bought at its store only

Bianca's a fixture in downtown St. John's for more than two decades, closed in January. (CBC)

People holding gift cards from a recently closed restaurant in St. John's are upset that they can no longer be used. 

Bianca's, a high-end restaurant in the downtown area of the city, went out of business in January.

When it closed, customers were told their gift cards would be honoured by two other restaurants in St. John's — Bistro Sofia and the Black Sea.

Dave Coffey, general manager of Bistro Sofia and the Black Sea in downtown St. John's, says they have been forced to stop accepting Bianca's gift cards in light of worries that they may not get reimbursed. (CBC)

The two businesses accepted the cards for some time but stopped taking them earlier this month when Bianca's failed to reimburse them. 

Dave Coffey, general manager of Bistro Sofia and the Black Sea, said customers are not happy at the news.

"The last couple weeks there's definitely been a lot more traffic when it comes to disgruntled customers," he said.

"I wouldn't say angry, but disappointed for sure."

He also said that each restaurant is still owed money by Bianca's owner Bianca Tzanov.

Costco in St. John's is still accepting Bianca's gift cards bought at its store, but only if customers still have their original receipt. 

Drawing the line

Bianca's website apologized to customers March 9, saying the cards were no longer valid, and thanked the two restaurants for their support.

Bistro Sophia was one of two restaurants that was, up until recently, accepting gift cards from Bianca's. (CBC)

However, Bistro Sofia and the Black Sea have been left dealing with unhappy gift cardholders who hadn't heard the news — on top of being out thousands of dollars.

"On Feb. 26 we decided that we can no longer take the financial hit we have been taking," said Coffey.

"The debt is up to $1,000 now, so we have to draw the line somewhere."

He told CBC's Here and Now that from now on when someone makes a reservation, the restaurants make a point to say they are not taking Bianca's gift cards anymore.

He said while it's unfortunate, they are in a situation where they can no longer count on being reimbursed.

"We're on the front line, and no one is getting a hold of Bianca," he said.

"Financially, she is not a position where she can compensate us, but I am still a firm believer in the verbal handshake." 

Coffey said the situation is unfortunate, but given the slow time of year and the uncertainty of getting reimbursed, they simply can't take the gift cards anymore.

"If I was getting compensation from Bianca, monetary compensation, I would — but we're not getting any money," he said.

"March is a graveyard for restaurants."

With files from Debbie Cooper

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