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A Seattle Wedding Venue Abruptly Closes & Refuses to Return $70,000 to 40 Couples

EM Fine Art, in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.

This Sunday, Monroe's Berlin Kofoed is marrying her fiance of seven years. She had no doubt they'd be married at Seattle's EM Fine Art, a venue with rave reviews and a five-star Yelp rating.

"We booked the venue March of last year, so over a year ago," Berlin said. "Went and checked out the venue and we loved it."

But on Friday, she got an email from EM Fine Art owners Roland and Amanda Crane that floored her.

"I get this email saying the venue's closed down and my wedding is this Sunday."

More than 40 couples received the email blaming the sudden closure on an electrical fire in the building that caused $100,000 worth of damage.

So I made a quick call to Seattle Fire.

"This is Kyle Moore from Seattle Fire Department. You called regarding a business, 410 Dexter Avenue. We have not responded to any fires at that address for two years."

Also, there is a Notice of Proposed Land Use action sign on the building that says it will be demolished so an 11 story building can be built in its place.

So this is where things start to get fishy.

Issaquah's Lacy Roberts was supposed to be married at EM Fine Art on July 13. She explained the rest of the email, "Under the force majeure clause, that we all signed in our contracts, basically makes him not liable to pay us back because it's an act of God and it wasn't under his control. At the bottom of the email he basically says he will not be refunding any of our money and that he wishes us the best of luck."

Couples who tried to contact Roland found that his voicemail is full, so you can't leave a message.

"The first thing I did was go to his website and the website's gone," Lacey said. "404 error, as if it never existed. Instantly, at that moment, I'm like, this isn't right."

Since Monday, more than 270 people have joined a Facebook page called The Fight Against EM Fine Art and Lacey has calculated that the owners have taken off with $70,000 worth of deposits paid by all of these couples. Berlin lost $2,000 and she has to pay another $1,600 to the new venue she found.

"It's frustrating because this isn't the wedding I've been planning this past year," Berlin said. "This is the wedding I have to settle for because Roland and Amanda Crane decided to take away the wedding I've been planning for the last year."

Fifteen minutes after Lacey left our studio this morning, she came back to tell me she'd just received another email from Roland and Amanda.

"With a completely different story than what we had originally received on Friday."

This new email mentions nothing about an electrical fire.

"Today's email is stating that the landlord terminated their lease and they fought and fought and fought, but it was a complicated process. But that he apologizes for not sharing the full story. No way to contact, still no phone number and no apology for what he's done."

Many of the couples on the Facebook page have contacted lawyers, but Lacey hopes they can go after the Cranes as a group. The Attorney General's office told me that each couple should file an official complaint with them.

If there's a silver lining for all of these couples who are forced to track down a last minute venue in the heart of wedding season, it's the fact that many venues that heard about what happened have offered up their services at discount rates.

"We're getting contacted by so many people that are like, 'What can we do to help?'" Lacey said. "I believe in karma - what goes around comes around. I may or may not get my $2,000 back and we may or may not get the $70,000 back, but there will be justice one way or another."

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About the Author

Rachel Belle is a feature contributor and personality on The Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio (weekdays 3-7pm), and host of Ring My Belle Weekends (Sundays at 3pm).

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