West Allis family says local business refuses to refund event canceled due to COVID-19

NOW: West Allis family says local business refuses to refund event canceled due to COVID-19

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Coronavirus fears have led to many cancellations, from weddings to graduation parties.

One West Allis family says it has made them a victim of fraud.

The family had signed a contract at a Greenfield business, to rent out their event hall.

It was supposed to take place in April, when it would have been illegal to host such an event. 

The family is still out $1,800 and the business owner continues to dodge their calls.

Anaeli Sanchez signed a contract with Mezcalero Restaurant and Bar located in Greenfield. They had agreed to rent out their event hall for their son's baptism, which would have taken place on April 25.

"The event was never canceled," Sanchez said. "The restaurant was closed, as we all know. We never got a call, we never got a text. I would say unprofessionalism of Jose, who is the owner of Mezcalero."

In April, Governor Tony Evers banned gatherings of more than ten people and closed all restaurants and bars, allowing only to-go orders.

The family says they didn't initially reach out to the business, assuming the event was canceled, since hosting such an event would have been illegal during the pandemic.

They say the business didn't reach out either.

"My husband and I went multiple times to try and talk to him, and he would always avoid talking to us. He would say, 'Do it your way. Do it however you want. Go ahead and take it to court.'"

According to their contract, all money would be forfeited only if the client terminates 30 days or less than the agreed upon date.

The contract does not have any pandemic clause or any other reason why a client wouldn't receive their money due to an unforeseen reason, like in this case.

"No one can force a business owner to do anything outside of a legal claim," said Jim Temmer, president and CEO of BBB Wisconsin.

Temmer says that's what their organization is all about.

"Getting consumers and business owners to talk to each other and try and come up with a good way to solve complaints and problems before they escalate of having to go into the court system."

"All we're looking for is a solution to our event, and most importantly, our money," Sanchez said.

In a statement, the owner of Mezcalero Restaurant and Bar said in part:

Due to health concerns regarding COVID-19, following State and local guidance, events scheduled between March 16, 2020 and June 30, 2020 were unable to proceed as scheduled. At Mezcalero, keeping our customers and staff safe is and always will be our number one priority.
We are and have been working diligently with customers who booked the Mezcalero Hall between March 16, 2020 and June 30, 2020 to reschedule their events for a future date of their convenience. We are waiving all rescheduling fees for events that were impacted during this timeframe.  If a customer chooses not to reschedule at this time we are offering a full refund  of the value of your deposit. The refund is comprised of 50% cash and 50% in the form of a gift certificate which can be used to book future events. 

The BBB is encouraging people who are in a similar situation to file a complaint through their website.

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