Charlotte restaurant owner out $7,000 after repairman never does work

A restaurant owner in Charlotte says he’s out $7,000 after the man he hired to replace his HVAC system took his money and ran.

“Here we were through the hot summer with no HVAC. He ran off with our $7,000,” said Mark Newell, owner of The Lodge: A Sportsman’s Grill.

During this blistering hot summer, the HVAC system at The Lodge in South Charlotte stopped working, so Newell called a guy he’s done business with numerous times.

“He gave us an invoice and said you've got to pay for the HVAC equipment before I can come out and service it,” Newell recalled.

The repairman he’s referring to, he says, is Bernie Douthit.

“Total cost was going to be about $11,000,” he said, “and [Douthit] said, ‘give me a check for $7,000, and then I'll get the equipment, bring it out to you and when it shows up, I'll do the work.’” Newell said.

Newell says he gave Douthit the money, but he never replaced the A-C system.

“Not only did we have the customers not want to come in, but the workers - they're coming in and it was 85 degrees in here,” he said”

They finally reached a breaking point, and called FOX 46.

“We've given him so many deadlines,” Newell said, “and we've given him so many opportunities and he's given us so many lies.”

Despite numerous calls and emails from FOX 46, the one and only response from Douthit read, “I'm actually in Boone working at the moment I don't get good reception here i will be home tonight will it be ok to call you then?”

He never called, but he has emailed his unhappy customer. Newell read one of them out loud, “Jimmy -- who's his made-up person,” Newell said, “he said he gave the money to Jimmy and Jimmy never did the work, so Jimmy said he was going to be there and he hasn't,” Newell read.

Douthit, in the email, says “I take full responsibility” for the unfinished job, but to date hasn’t refunded any of the money.

Three months later, The Lodge has the air conditioning back up and running; only because they paid someone else to do the job. They’re still out $7,000, and despite emails from the so-called repairman saying he’d refund their money, he hasn’t.