All-inclusive packages were also offered at reBar, meaning affected brides and grooms have lost not only a reception venue, but also their deejay, florist, food and other services. Couples said that reBar required a deposit of up to 50 percent with regular monthly payments thereafter—and some said they were offered a 5 percent discount if they paid in full upfront.
"Jason [Stevens] spearheaded all the sales," said Lindsay. "He's the one who negotiated all the deals, and made the contracts."
Ranjan Mukhopadhyay and his fiancee, Katie Jarvis, had been chipping away at their balance for over a year and a half, making their final payment to reBar last month, ahead of their July 26 wedding. Their estimated loss: $20,400. "For us, that's our life savings," he said.
"We paid for a wedding, and now we have to pay for another one," said Brian Cavanaugh, whose planned reBar wedding to fiancee Heather Epstein was set for June 7. They paid a total of $19,149 since booking the venue in February 2013. "We thought we were all set," he said.
It's a frustrating situation, and one a surprising number of couples have encountered. "Vendor problems" were the No. 1 reason couples filed a wedding insurance claim in 2012, accounting for 24 percent of reports, according to insurance company Travelers. Of those claims, 21 percent involved a caterer going out of business, and 11 percent involved a deejay not showing up or going out of business.
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Wedding insurance is how Josh Rosenberg and Kristina Martin got the rare better outcome to the reBar story. A friend of Rosenberg's had lost deposits due to a 2011 wedding date that coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Irene, and so the couple decided to get a policy in case a winter storm derailed their plans.
"I think we paid maybe $250," he said. "That's nothing for what we got out of it."
After speaking with an insurance agent Monday, Rosenberg said he expects to be reimbursed for the roughly $14,000 in payments the couple made since July 2013. The policy will also cover any deposits lost for other vendors, if their date changes and say, the officiant or deejay isn't available.
"There's usually not a lot of warning," said Alan Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains." Worse, couples usually have little recourse to regain funds tied up with a venue. "You're kind of at their mercy," he said. "I wish there was better news."
If the venue files for bankruptcy protection, they can line up with other creditors, Fields said. Couples from reBar have said they also are exploring a civil suit, and talking with law enforcement and the New York state attorney general's office about possible charges.
Other Brooklyn wedding venues and vendors have stepped up in the meantime, offering special packages and rates. Employee from reBar—who were themselves left without paychecks—have also been working with couples to create backup plans and find replacement venues.
"The show of support has been overwhelming," said Lindsay. They coordinated last weekend's weddings at other venues for free, and the restaurant's deejay offered his services for free. "It was the right thing to do," he said.
Couples' friends and family have offered contributions, with many publicly appealing for aid on sites such as Indiegogo and GoFundMe.
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Couples still face the challenges, however, of finding a space that works for their date and their now severely depleted budgets.
"We're still in limbo somewhat," said James Gray King, who had planned to marry fiancee Kelly Reilly at reBar on Aug. 3—a date they chose because it was one of the few available. Even at a discount, many prices are still too high given that the couple had already paid reBar more than $10,000.
"We can't afford to be paying for a second wedding when we've already paid for 75 percent of our first," he said.