PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- There were nearly $200,000 in deposits paid to a Ponte Vedra wedding venue, whose owner now tells First Coast News the venue is closing in 10 days.
"We want every bride to get a refund," Palm Valley Gardens' owner Ren Weise said. "It's just can, are we able to do that. At this point, no, but we're looking into ways that we can."
"What do you mean at this point, no?" we asked.
"There is no money in Palm Valley Gardens," Weise responded.
Palm Valley Gardens, a special events venue, is being forced to close its doors by St. Johns County due to building code violations.
Specifically, using a building they don't have a permit to use.
"In that Special Use Permit, [the county] specifically said you can't use the building. This isn't for the building," we asked Weise.
"They did," Weise affirmed.
Tuesday, the county shut down PVG, allowing a grace period until Oct. 31 for clients who already booked.
"There is no 180 days. There's about 10 days," Weise said. "By not being able to book brides for next year, we have no cash flow. We are out of business as of two weeks from now."
No cash flow means no refunds.
On Wednesday, First Coast News introduced you to PVG client Taylor Outten, who is now re-planning a wedding without the help of her deployed husband.
"Our initial deposit was around $3,600," Outten said. "I just put in another 30% for $1,700. And so, I mean we're in the hole already $5,000 to $6,000."
The emails, calls and Facebook messages from brides and grooms continue to roll into our newsroom.
One groom, who did not want to be identified, told First Coast News just last Thursday he booked his wedding with PVG for May 2013, handing over a check for $3,600.
According to his account, the check was deposited April 30. The next day, he heard PVG was being shut down and called for a refund. He was told the money was gone.
"He had the money," the client said. "He could have returned my money."
Weise said they are not sure exactly how that specific check was spent, but said the money is gone.
"The $3,600 for the bride in May is gone?" we asked.
"It's gone," Weise replied. "But we are working on ways to get it back to them."
He added they currently have no money to repay any clients.
With 50-plus events booked through May 2013 and the average deposit of $3,600, Palm Valley Gardens owes clients about $180,000.
"They were booking these weddings, paying you the money and... where is it?" we asked.
"Well, with any small business it is a cash flow and the money that comes in is used to pay for the lights, the building, the vendors and other things," Weise explained.
Weise said they will sell the property, and any money they make from it will go to repay the clients.
"We are putting the house on the market," Weise said. "We have lost everything. We're going to have to declare bankruptcy."
According to Realtor.com, Palm Valley Gardens is worth $1.1 million.
Weise believes the county had other options that could have saved dozens of weddings and their business.
"They could have fined me. They could have warned me. They could have done a myriad of other things," Weise said. "But to shut us down without any notice or any recourse and without even being able to explain our position was just wrong."
Weise and his wife said they are not crooks. They are trying to help their clients make other plans and are trying to find ways to repay the money. They even sent an email to the affected brides, which a local wedding planner posted to her Facebook page.
For information on wedding vendors and coordinators stepping up to help the brides affected, messageErin Hawley on Facebook.