By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Preparing the details for one’s wedding—a monumental milestone in the lives of many couples—is as tedious and cumbersome as it is exciting. Couples create back-up plans for the inclement weather, but what about when the wedding venue itself closes without notice? A number of New York couples are scrambling to find an alternate venue to host their weddings after the unexpected closing of popular Brooklyn venue reBar last week.
“A coworker told my fiancée that reBar had closed…and my first thought was ‘well, they’ll be open tomorrow.’ It just didn’t make any sense…neither of us could process the information,” Marcus Soutra and his fiancée Amber Bergeron told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
With reBar’s sudden closure, couples like Soutra and Bergeron have lost their initial deposit and, in the case of weddings scheduled in the next few weeks, their complete wedding venue payment. The cost of a Saturday wedding at reBar was $25,000 with a required 50 percent deposit to secure the date. “Our reBar wedding cost $25,000,” said Soutra. “We put down $12,500 in August 2013 and have been paying $1,000 a month since.” Soutra, COO of a mentoring agency for children with learning disabilities and Bergeron, a teacher at a Manhattan high school, are still reeling from the shock and simultaneously searching for alternative venues.
“After the initial punched-in-the-gut feeling, we immediately began juggling the pieces—calling our credit card company, other venues. We attacked the situation from all angles,” said Bergeron. “We're still in that process, so it's almost like we haven't felt the full impact.”
Luckily for Soutra and Bergeron, a number of their payments to reBar were made via American Express and the couple is hoping to recover at least a portion of their deposits. Wedding insurance may have been a further saving grace, but even then, it may not have been enough. “A lot of people get general liability for the venue and not cancellation insurance per se,” said a broker at Event Insurance Brokers. “You have to be careful that cancellation insurance is not just a back-up plan for a bride or groom who is inclined to opt out of the wedding.”
Opting-out is the last thing on the minds of reBar couples. Allegations have been made that reBar owner Jason Stevens had skimmed money from the restaurant space and has illegally disappeared with thousands of dollars in wedding deposits. “We had zero indication of this. We were hooked when we were told that reBar threw ‘parties disguised as weddings’—it was everything we wanted.” said Soutra. “Of course, we never met Jason. The staff we spoke to were so attentive and fantastic, the venue had a reputation—a good one! The whole thing is just unbelievable.”
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office is hoping to assist reBar couples—many of whom are middle class, making a $25,000 loss a difficult hit. “The Brooklyn DA is investigating,” said Shelia Stainback, a spokeswoman for the DA..
“This clearly isn't the worst thing that could have happened to us, but it sure feels like it,” Bergeron said somberly. Soutra and Bergeron are considering a civil case for damages against Stevens for breach of contract.
“There is kind of a support group of scorned reBar couples,” Soutra told the Eagle. “There is talk about a class action suit. We would be interested in joining one.”
In the meantime, the couple is continuing to search for a new venue that can accommodate their wedding date and reception size. “We are viewing other spaces, hoping to get some money back before we have to book another space,” they said. “If it comes to it, we'll downsize and adjust—but if that happens, it's almost like he won. We're doing our best to move forward.”