PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Judy Oken Hodas, Deputy Attorney General
Consumer Protection Unit
Phone: (302) 577-8827
Date: May 7, 2003
ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH OWNER OF CONTINENTAL BALLROOM
Consent Order Provides Restitution to Victims
(Wilmington, DE): Attorney General Jane Brady announced today that her Consumer Protection Unit has entered into a Stipulation and Consent Order to Cease and Desist with the owner of the Continental Ballroom. The Honorable Joseph Slights, III signed the Order late yesterday. Sandra Showell and her corporation, "La Classique" (hereinafter "Defendants"), owned, operated and managed the Continental Ballroom on Philadelphia Pike in Claymont from early
1997 through December, 1999, as a dance hall as well as a catering and banquet hall which they leased to the public for wedding receptions, proms, parties and other special events.
After actions were filed against the Defendants by New Castle County for conducting business not permitted by code - the facility was only to be used as a dance studio - and by the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control and Tobacco Enforcement office for unlicensed sales of liquor and for falsely claiming to have a liquor license, Defendants ceased operations of the Continental Ballroom as a banquet facility.
As a result, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit began to receive complaints from consumers that the Defendants failed to provide contracted banquet and catering services but
retained the deposits that consumers had paid to reserve the use of the Continental Ballroom. Based on the complaints received, the average loss was over $1,000.
The Consumer Protection Unit filed a civil enforcement action for violations of the
Consumer Fraud Act and the Delaware Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act alleging that:
· Defendants were not legally able to offer the use of the Continental Ballroom facilities for the purposes to which they had agreed,
· Defendants were not licensed to serve alcohol, but had agreed to do so, and
· Defendants had failed to return deposits.
Pursuant to the Consent Order, the Defendants agree to not establish or operate any
business in the State of Delaware without the approval, authorizations, licenses and permits required by law and to not make false representations to consumers or enter into consumer contracts that they will not be able to fulfill.
They also agreed to pay, by the end of June, 2003, the amount of $29,052 to the Consumer Protection Fund to be distributed as restitution payments to consumers whose contracts with Continental Ballroom went unfulfilled. An additional $7,500 in civil penalties, costs and attorneys fees will also be paid by the Defendants. Consumers who have previously filed complaints with the Consumer Protection Unit will be contacted directly about their restitution payments.
Attorney General Jane Brady commented, “I am pleased we are able to assure restitution for these victims, although it is small compensation for the disruption of the enjoyment of special celebrations, such as weddings and anniversary parties.”
Dawn Crawford, whose family lost nearly $2,000 due to the closing of Continental
Ballroom, commented, "I was a single mother preparing to pay for my entire wedding. My future in-laws were generous to extend their wedding gift to us ahead of time to help make the down payments. It was upsetting enough to have that money stolen, but we also had to change the wedding date, change all of the arrangements and put out thousands of dollars more at the last minute. I was shocked and pleased to hear about the settlement and look forward to putting this behind us."
The settlement averts a trial in this case, which was scheduled to begin on May 12th.