Thousands of engaged couples were left high and dry after wedding event chain Noah’s Event Venue was forced to cease operations on Jan. 30 after filing for bankruptcy last year.
Utah bankruptcy judge Joel Meeker ordered Noah Corp., the parent company of Noah’s Event Venues, to close the doors of all 42 of its venues across the nation, including its locations in Ohio, Iowa and Arkansas.
“Noah legally owes (refunds) to everyone, there’s no dispute about that,” Cannon said, according to USA Today. “The problem is that there’s nothing that I know of, there’s not very much, to be able to repay people with.”
Noah Corp. was sued in April 2019 in a lawsuit alleging fraud after investors poured millions of dollars into an event venue in Indiana that was never built. Investors accused Noah Corp.’s founder, William Bowser, of leading a Ponzi scheme by using the money to pay for other locations.
A federal judge ruled that Bowser give $845,000 he made from the sale of his $2.4-million home to the investors.
The company filed for bankruptcy in May 2019 in a move intended to help the company reorganize and make money again.
“In short, we simply grew too fast and lost our ability to react quickly to an ever-changing market by focusing too heavily on new locations versus making sure the fledgling locations had all the proper support,” Bowser said in court filings.
Cannon said Noah Corp. was depending on the first months of the year, which were usually the company’s most profitable, to help it recover. Instead, the company brought in its worst numbers ever, according to the Des Moines Register.
“The company hired a restructuring officer and he had a solid plan for reducing costs,” Cannon said. “Traditionally, this time of year is some of the highest revenues when people are booking weddings, but the closings led to bad publicity and a really, really bad January instead.”
After Meeker’s ruling, Noah’s Event Venues closed across the nation with practically no notice. Though employees received a warning about the negative projections, they never warned the couples that put down deposits.
The office of the state attorney general in Arkansas received four complaints on the first day after the closures were reported. The government is reviewing the situation to see if the couples can be helped.
Sad stories have surfaced about couples across the nation who are now without a venue — and without the time or money to get a new one.
A week before her wedding, Joslyn Watermeier attended a bridal shower thrown for her by her work friends during which she received an urgent text from her mother, according to WHBQ-TV.
Watermeier previously asked her mom to run down to Noah’s Event Venue to see why they weren’t answering her calls. Her mom asked her to call as soon as she could.
“She says, ‘ok, don’t freak out, but the venue’s closed.'” Watermeier said. “It really sent me in to complete shock. It didn’t really register with me. I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ She said, ‘the venue filed for bankruptcy and closed their doors.'”
Morgan Redman and her fiancé, Mike Evans, planned a large reception at the Noah’s New Albany, Ohio, venue in March. The couple paid Noah’s around $17,000 dollars for the venue, the bar tab, extra lighting and linens.
The night before the couple set out for their destination ceremony in Hawaii on Monday, however, they found out that the venue had permanently closed from a friend who had been following coverage of the story.
Though everything seemed fine the previous week when the couple met with their coordinator to make the last payment, Redman got her to confirm the bad news.
“She said it was true. I told her I needed to speak with corporate, but the corporate lines are turned off,” Redman said. “I don’t think we can talk to anyone about getting money back.”
Others spoke out about their devastated wedding plans and asked for help on Twitter.
Here in DSM. We found out through social media that they closed. They took $2000 from us. We are devastated.
— Cait (@CassadayCaitlyn) February 8, 2020
My fiancé and I paid @noahseventvenue for our wedding next month on 3/14. We gave them $6,500 and have booked all our other vendors. We’re so heart broken to hear this a month before the wedding & would appreciate any help we can get #noahseventvenue? https://t.co/gvRgpAQy28
— tanielynn (@tanielynn2) February 11, 2020
But engaged couples across the nation are finding new hope for their special day through the kindness of strangers.
A nationwide Facebook group called “Noah’s Event Venue closure Support group by Wedding Professionals” was created on Sunday to connect stranded couples with vendors that are willing to help. As of Monday, the group has over 2,000 members.
Joe Gatto, the owner of an event space in Des Moines, Iowa, offered free venue rental to couples who spend a certain amount on catering, according to USA Today. Gatto said he wanted to use his connections within the local wedding community to help the couples out.
“We don’t want them to have a bad experience. I want to be able to help them through that, and I think we can,” Gatto, who is also a Des Moines city councilman, said. “We have the means to be able to do that in the Des Moines area.”
Ohio couple Josh and Michelle Staley opened a brand-new venue early to help out the victims of Noah’s closure, free of rent.
“Our wedding wasn’t exactly perfect, and we had some experiences that we don’t want anyone else to deal with,” Josh Staley said. “Our hearts play a bigger role than our business sense or making money.”
A number of other venues and vendors from all over the country extended offers and quick accommodations to the affected couples.
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