NJ Restaurant Owner Shocked Over $59K Bill

Evelyn Penza, who owns the Red Barn Cafe in Hammonton, says she opened a South Jersey gas bill that she couldn't believe

A South Jersey restaurant owner was stunned after receiving a $59,257.87 dollar gas bill from South Jersey Gas.

Evelyn Penza, who owns the Red Barn Café in Hammonton, tells NBC10 Jersey Shore Bureau reporter Ted Greenberg that she could not believe her eyes.

“I said this is crazy, let me get my glasses,” said Penza.

Two months ago, Penza says she switched from propane to natural gas to save money. She anticipated her gas bill to be less than $1,000. But after opening up her latest bill, Penza says she called the South Jersey Gas Company customer service line to see if a mistake was made.

“They advised me to make payments, start making payments,"said Penza. "They asked me to go look at the reading again, which I did. They said yup, that’s correct. $59,000."

Penza then brought in plumbers to make sure that possible gas leaks were not to blame for the massive bill, but none were found.

NBC10's Greenberg talked to South Jersey gas spokesperson Joanne Brigandi.

“At this point we don’t really know what it is and we’re getting ready to do an investigation," said Brigandi at the time.

When asked if Penza had to pay the bill, Brigandi replied “No, not until we find out exactly what happened and make sure that it’s correct and if it’s incorrect, then we’ll make the adjustment and they’ll pay whatever the correct amount is.”

On Monday, Penza told NBC10 that South Jersey gas admitted they made a mistake calibrating the meter and that her bill may end up being close to $590 for two months.

"This morning SJ Gas sent two technicians to investigate the situation at Red Barn," she said. "It took no more than 20 minutes to establish the meter was not calibrating correctly."

Penza said that while gas meters normally move forward every 1000 cubic feet, the meter at her restaurant was moving every 10 cubic feet.

"Obviously carelessness on the part of readers and inspectors caused this to happen," she said.

Penza thanked NBC10's Ted Greenberg for his help, claiming the gas company likely would not have done anything without his investigation.

Penza is the mother-in-law of NBC10 reporter Cydney Long.

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