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Stuck with a useless restaurant gift certificate?

Two dozen South Jersey restaurants will let you use a gift certificate from closed restaurants. (Not that you should buy gift certificates.)

Every holiday season, well-meaning folks buy restaurant gift certificates for friends --who promptly stuff them in a drawer to await a special occasion. Which so often comes after the restaurant has gone out of business.*

In a stroke of public relations genius (one that just might actually lure Pennsylvanians over the bridges), about two dozen eateries in the South Jersey Independent Restaurant Association will give 50 percent credit, up to $50, on valid gift certificates from closed Philly-area independent restaurants.

The only catch to this "SJ Hot Chefs Gift Certificate Bailout Plan" is that the restaurants had to be in business on Nov. 1. It's a short list right now, as this is the busiest time of the year and few restaurants are pulling the plug. (Casanova Grill in Marlton qualifies, but technically Sovalo in Northern Liberties, which closed in October, is unacceptable. And Bennigan's does not qualify because it's a chain.)

Given the economy, "unfortunately there will probably be more closings," says the group's Fred Kellermann, who owns Elements Cafe in Haddon Heights.

Here are details of the Bailout Plan.

* Restaurant gift certificates are not the best idea. See my story from 2004.