By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn business owner Jason Stevens has plead not guilty to tax fraud charges in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Criminal Term. Stevens, the owner of noted DUMBO bar and wedding venue reBar has been charged with failing to pay more than $1 million in taxes on the business from 2009 to 2012.
This gives little comfort to couples left scrambling to find alternative wedding venues after Stevens abruptly shuttered reBar without warning earlier this month. With reBar’s sudden closure, couples like Marcus Soutra and Amber Bergeron have lost their initial deposit and, in the case of weddings scheduled in the next few weeks, their complete payment. The cost of a Saturday wedding at reBar was $25,000 with a required 50 percent deposit in order to secure the desired 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 his fiancée Amber Bergeron, a teacher at a Manhattan high school, are still reeling from the shock and simultaneously searching for alternative venues. They are not the only ones. More than a dozen men and women who lost their deposits confronted Stevens outside Brooklyn Supreme Court last Thursday and chanted "Jason Stevens is a thief."
Shortly after it was revealed that Stevens closed the business with a simple text message to employees stating that reBar was bankrupt and had closed, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office began an investigation into allegations that Stevens may have skimmed money from the restaurant space and illegally disappeared with thousands of dollars in wedding deposits.
So far the investigation has led to an indictment on tax evasion charges. It is unclear if the DA’s office will continue to investigate the missing wedding deposits. Jilted couples are considering civil suits against Stevens on breach of contract claims. “There is talk about a class action suit,” said Soutra.
Prosecutors were negotiating with Stevens on the tax fraud charges and a settlement is expected by the next court date on June 12. His attorney told the Wall Street Journal that Stevens surrendered voluntarily. He said the wedding venue allegations were separate from Stevens' court appearance last week for tax fraud.