PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- The owner of a Ponte Vedra wedding venue, which owes clients $180,000 dollars, plans to sell the property.
St. Johns County Sheriff's Office notified clients Wednesday they are investigating Palm Valley Gardens.
"She's devastated," said PVG client Nat Fogle of his fiance. "I think that's the proper word for it."
Fogle is seeking legal action after he and fiance, and over 50 other couples, lost their wedding venue and deposits averaging $3,600 each.
"We did receive an email from the county this morning saying they are determining whether or not there would be legal ramifications," Fogle said.
St. Johns County shut down Palm Valley Gardens last week for a permit violation, but allowed it to operate for another 180 days for clients who already booked.
In a May 3rd interview, PVG owner Ren Weise told us that grace period didn't help.
"By not being able to book brides for next year, we have no cash flow," Weise said. "We are out of business as of two weeks from now."
"Sort of like a ponzi scheme almost. But not really because every business does this," said bankruptcy attorney Charles Fyler.
Well, not every business, he added.
"A responsible business should have an operating account," Fyler said. "They shouldn't be operating on the deposits. They should build up over time."
Fyler said other than forcing PVG into bankruptcy to recoup losses, legal options for customers are few.
"I doubt that anyone will recoup all of the money," Fyler said.
Adding to repayment uncertainty, First Coast News has learned Weise owes the IRS more than $60,000, according to the St. Johns County Clerk of Courts.
Weise said that amount is now about $30,000, telling First Coast News in a phone interview, "We've been paying down on that for the last two years or so."
But as of Wednesday, the Clerk of Courts office had no record of those payments.
Weise is now hoping to sell the venue in the next 45 days with the expectation the new owner can honor the already booked weddings. Sixty percent of the deposits for those weddings have already been paid to Weise; money he said previously is "gone".
"We want to make sure the people who have booked can still have their wedding and can have it with just paying their final payment," Weise said.
According to Realtor.com, Palm Valley Gardens is worth $1.1 million.
Weise believes it has doubled in value, and hopes to sell it for around $2.2 million.
First Coast News