Two months after the landmark Milton Inn restaurant closed and left angry customers holding thousands of dollars in unused gift certificates, a restaurant set to open tomorrow in Fells Point will begin to redeem the certificates.
The certificates will be honored at Hamilton's, a new restaurant in the Admiral Fell Inn run by the former operators of the Milton Inn. A new group taking over the restaurant at the historic Milton Inn might also honor them.
Estimates on the amount of unused gift certificates range from $20,000 to nearly $100,000.
Dominik Eckenstein, managing partner of the Admiral Fell Inn, said the hotel decided to honor the gift certificates as a goodwill gesture and to preserve the reputation of restaurateur Lynn Patrick. Patrick, who said he ran out of time and money before he could honor the certificates at the Milton Inn, is to run Hamilton's.
"This was an issue that just wasn't going to go away unless somebody did something," Patrick said yesterday. "Because of the situation Dominik and I have worked out, we can step to the plate and make it happen. I'm happy about that."
The decision came as a new group moves ahead with renovations to the Milton Inn building, hoping to open a new restaurant at the northern Baltimore County site by Thanksgiving.
Richard Pirone, a longtime Baltimore-area restaurateur who owns a portion of the new restaurant there, said members of the ownership group have discussed honoring the Milton Inn gift certificates starting in January.
Pirone applauded the decision to honor the gift certificates at Patrick's new restaurant, saying: "It's the honorable thing to do."
Pirone said the Milton Inn receives more than a half-dozen calls a day from customers asking about the fate of the unredeemed gift certificates.
The issue arose in September, when Patrick closed his acclaimed restaurant amid a leasing dispute. As the final meals were served in the inn's elegant dining rooms, customers were holding an estimated $130,000 in unused gift certificates, he said.
In the last 10 days of business, Patrick said, about $30,000 worth of gift certificates were redeemed -- including many that had been sold by a previous owner of the restaurant. But Patrick said he ran out of time to honor the certificates before his lease expired, and the restaurant business ran out of money to issue refunds.
Customers demanded to know who would honor the gift certificates.
Officials from MacKenzie Properties Inc., the Lutherville company that controls the building and the name, said they were not responsible for the debt. Members of the new restaurant group said they were merely new tenants and had not purchased Patrick's business and its accompanying liabilities.
Patrick said at the time that because he was an employee of the Admiral Fell Inn, and not the owner of Hamilton's, he could not promise to honor the gift certificates there.
Eckenstein, the Admiral Fell Inn official, said he believes the amount of the unredeemed gift certificates to be about $20,000.
Lee Anthony, a retired school teacher from Pikesville who bought a gift certificate about a month before the announcement of the Milton Inn's closing, said she was surprised by the decision to honor the gift certificates. "I thought it was down the drain," she said of the $100 gift certificate she'd bought for her son and daughter-in-law.
Pub Date: 11/12/97