JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Ponte Vedra wedding and special events venue is being forced to close its doors by St. Johns County due to building code violations.
"They've lied to everybody," said Taylor Outten. Her big day is now a big mess.
Outten's wedding venue, Palm Valley Gardens, has been using a building on their property that was not included under the county's Special Use Permit, according to Darrel Locklear, St. Johns County Assistant Administrator of Operations.
"That is the sad part of all of this," Locklear said. "That people were paying money with the expectation of using the house when the house was never intended to be used for that purpose."
Locklear said the Planning and Zoning department specifically told PVG's owner, Ren Weise, the building was not included in the Special Use Permit granted in 2010 and again in 2011.
Weise replied to the county in an email we obtained, which states "Please let building and environmental services know that we will not be using the building and plan on bringing in portables for the restrooms."
Yet still today, PVG's website blatantly advertises use of the house.
"They specifically advertised the bridal suite," Outten said. "The reception was going to be out on the back patio but the bathrooms are inside, the cake cutting was going to be going on inside, the caterers were going to set up in the dining room."
Locklear agreed Palm Valley's actions deceived their clients and county government.
"It does not appear that they were being forthright," Locklear said.
Tuesday, the St. Johns County Commission pulled the plug on the venue, allowing a Special Use Permit for a grace period, until October 31st, for clients who already booked.
Outten's wedding was booked with PVG for November 16th; just two weeks after the cutoff.
Her invitations, with the address, are already printed.
She told First Coast News she has emailed and called her contacts at Palm Valley Gardens, owner Ren Weise and Madyson Holden, PVG's director of sales and operations. The only voice she's heard is an automated voice mail, asking clients who have already booked to leave their name, phone number and email, and they will be contacted by PVG.
Now Outten and countless other brides could be out thousands.
"If they book somewhere else and if it's for a different date and that photographer or that florist or that wedding coordinator is already booked and they've already done work for your wedding, then technically you aren't due back your money," event planner Megan Martin explained to First Coast News.
Martin, the owner of A White Veiled Occasion and also the editor for The Jacksonville Bride blog, was in the process of planning a client's wedding at Palm Valley Gardens. Luckily, she said, the client had not yet booked with the venue.
Martin said most vendor contracts have a non-refundable deposit, but that many vendors she has spoken with are sympathetic to this situation and may be able to offer lenience or assistance to the brides affected by PVG's closure.
The wedding dream is now a nightmare for Outten, who will now have to re-plan the wedding while her fiance is deployed with the Navy.
"We originally set out to get all of this out of the way before he left," Outten said. "Now I have to start over."
First Coast News received a statement from Madyson Holden with Palm Valley Gardens in response to our calls and emails. It states:
"The news from the hearing yesterday comes as a shock to Palm Valley Gardens staff. We are working diligently to sort through things for our brides and will be contacting them soon to inform them off our plans."
I also spoke with Holden on the phone briefly. The first time, when I asked if she knew the owner had sent emails to the city acknowledging they would not use the building, the call was disconnected. When she called back, she referred to the statement, and when I asked if clients would be refunded, she said she could not answer further questions and hung up.
First Coast News