Wedding bell blues

Daniel MacEachern
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Couples with weddings booked at Majestic say they should have been told about sale sooner

The Majestic Theatre on the corner of Duckworth Street and Queen’s Road in downtown St. John’s is being sold to the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland to establish a new soup kitchen to serve the less fortunate in the downtown core of St. John’s. Now couples who booked the facility for wedding receptions are upset the owners didn’t give them more notice of cancellations. — Telegram file photo

Couples who had weddings booked at The Majestic in St. John’s say the building’s owners kept them in the dark about its impending sale.

As reported by The Telegram Thursday, the Pentecostal Assemblies has bought the St. John’s landmark, at the fork of Duckworth Street and Queens Road. The prospective owners — the deal hasn’t closed yet — haven’t announced their plans for the space, which currently houses a restaurant and live performance space and can be booked for private events.

In the meantime, couples who have weddings booked for this summer tell The Telegram they learned of the sale only when news broke last week, and are now scrambling to find other locations.

Tara Lehman, the Majestic’s manager, says staff is working with the brides and grooms to place them elsewhere. “Some of them have been successfully placed,” she said, adding most of almost 30 affected weddings were booked before the building was put up for sale. Lehman said the building was officially listed for sale in January. “If I knew the building was going to sell to somebody that wouldn’t hold the weddings, I certainly wouldn’t have taken (the bookings), because it just makes my life harder, too.”

But people with weddings booked before the building went up for sale say they should have been warned sooner they may have to find alternate venues. Janice Godin, whose wedding is scheduled for Aug. 4, found out Thursday the building is being sold, but she and her fiancé consider themselves lucky.

 “We managed to book at the Masonic Temple pretty much right away,” she said. “I went on a spree of looking for other venues and found that one.” After the news broke, said Godin, Lehman called her to say the new owners wouldn’t accommodate the summer’s bookings and offered help to find a new location. “I just don’t understand why they didn’t tell us why this was a possibility,” Godin said.

Current owner Pete Quinton accused the media of blowing the problem out of proportion.

“Is that even newsworthy? It’s a business transaction. You guys have blown stuff out in the media,” he said. “The Pentecostal group that are buying it are already up in the air, and we could end up in a situation there because of media attention that’s unfavourable. I don’t understand your point here.”

Quinton said the potential sale of the Majestic wasn’t a secret because it was listed on the MLS, an electronic real estate listing service, and the Majestic was in the process of finding matching dates for people’s weddings and management hadn’t had a chance to contact people before news of the sale broke. He said most of the bookings would have occurred before the building went up for sale, and he’s not sure if any bookings were taken afterwards.

“If we did, the building was already up for sale. We hadn’t planned on selling it until January, so bookings we had before that, if people are saying they wouldn’t have booked their wedding before that, well, we decided to sell it in January, to put it up for sale,” he said. “And at that point, we probably had bookings there, yes. And anyone, with public knowledge, we didn’t do it a private sale. It’s on the MLS.”

Quinton said once a solid offer was made on the building, the Majestic owners attempted to get an extension in the agreement to cover booked weddings.

‘Testing the waters’

“When that didn’t look like it was going to be possible ... we started calling people. First we called venues to try to get options for these people and then we started calling people. And then the media got hold to it and jumped ahead of it a bit. And we’re still in the process of working with brides and grooms and other events we have there to try to get them suitably placed.”

But Tim Orsborn said he and his fiancée — who booked their July 13 wedding last October — noticed the real-estate listing earlier this year and called the Majestic to find out if they should find another place to hold their wedding, and they were told not to worry.

“I contacted Tara down at the Majestic, and she said, ‘Well, we’re just testing out the waters. We want to see what the market is like, but we really don’t expect this to go anywhere, so you don’t need to worry about your wedding,’” he said, adding he was told it was likely that any new owners would let the booked weddings go ahead. “That struck me as odd. I said, ‘Well, the new owners could tear the building if they want. They have no legal obligation to keep your business commitments,’ and she said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We really don’t think we’re going to sell. There’s nothing to worry about, so proceed as normal.’”

Like Godin and her fiancé, Orsborn and his fiancée found out about the sale Thursday. They started calling other venues right away and were surprised to find out the Majestic had already been in touch to find out their availability to host weddings that would have to be moved from the Majestic.

“Clovelly (golf course) knew a week prior to me knowing,” he said. “The Majestic didn’t even bother to call us and say the building is sold. We found out through the paper.” He said while he appreciates the effort the Majestic is putting in to find alternative venues, he still feels he and his fiancée should have been consulted first to find out what they wanted to do.

“Maybe a little bit of credit is due there, but I think ultimately first they should have called us and said, ‘The building is now sold. We will work with you to try to find you a new venue’ instead of keeping it a secret and trying to find a new venue without letting us know.” Orsborn and his fiancée are still working out their options.

Godin is pleased she and her fiancé have found a new venue, but says they had their heart set on the Majestic.

“We chose it because of the esthetic. We wanted to have a, I don’t know, retro vibe, and the place had that. It was beautiful,” she said. “The Masonic is a good alternate, but it’s not where I wanted to be.”

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Queens Road

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Recent comments

  • Christine
    April 13, 2012 - 21:33

    Sorry these "business" people decided to change your venue without notice.!!! My church doublebooked my wedding on August 19, 1988. We did the marriage course as required; the other couple said they would go elsewhere to marry. We had to change our timings 'cos they knew we'd understand!!?? Guessing they are still together!!?? We are!!

  • Joseph McGrath
    April 12, 2012 - 18:45

    The idea of soup kitchen in downtown St.John" is a good one.The Pentocostals are probably the fastest growing religion in NL by far and I guess they have the money and now wish to give back to the community.It is only just that they increase their presence in helping the less fortunate.Surely alternate arrangements can be made for those with wedding or partys booked.The seller and the Penetocostal church can help these people by giving them the extra funds needed to book an alternative place without financial hardship.As this Church group expands in numbers it has a moral duty to help and replace replace other religious churches that have been doing this work for years and years but are no longer able to fund it.I wish them luck in the venture which is going to be a tough endevour both financially and volunteering by their membership.

  • Legally Blonde
    April 11, 2012 - 19:06

    "There's no legal obligation on the sellers to honor these bookings?" Hate to burst your bubble 'TOUGH LUCK' but you are wrong. If a deposit was accepted and barring any expressed limitations to the contrary, then the booking becomes a legally binding contract. If the building burns down or the roof caves in, then the company might be able to escape its obligations to the client (force majeure). But the company's decision to sell the property is not an event that is beyond its control and does not relieve it of its responsibility. Either it arranges to find another venue for its clients or it compensates them for any additional reasonable cost of doing so themselves. The company might also be obliged to reimburse the client for out-of-pocket expenses for things like invitations that must be discarded. The company should already have offered to help its clients find alternative accommodations but failing that, the displaced wedding couple can always look to the Small Claims Court for compensation.

  • Gotta love the Pentecostals
    April 11, 2012 - 13:19

    Anyone ever been to a Pentecostal wedding? They toast the Bride and Groom with Grape Juice. They 'pretend' it's wine. What a load!!! If that "church" had any decency about them, they would honor those bookings and stop getting on with their "holier than thou" attitude with regard to booze and dancing! A Bunch of hypocrites! Enough to make ya hurl!

  • K
    April 11, 2012 - 11:42

    I really feel for these couples who were put out by this sale, and I think Mr. Quinton And Ms. Lehman are full of it!! I was down to the Majestic the last week of January checking out this location for a friend who is away and looking to hold a New Years wedding there, and NOTHING was said to any of the 4 of us who were there checking it out about being out up for sale.. I think their only problem now is that the media brought it out for the public to hear about the underhanded deals they have been doing. Kodo's to the media!!! I hope when your helping these couples find other venues that you are either giving the couples back their money or paying these other venues what the couples have paid them.. You two should be ashamed of yourselves for treating fellow newfoundlanders like this..

    • Wow
      April 11, 2012 - 12:11

      I was also there earlier this year, looking at booking a wedding for late 2012. No mention of the building being up for sale at that time, and honestly, who's going on MLS looking to buy a commercial building the year of their wedding? Mr. Quinton shouldn't act like MLS is a common place for people to be online. I actually knew the building was sold 2 days earlier than Mr. Orsborn and his fiance. A wedding decorator friend posted it in a status on facebook on Tuesday April 3. Funny that word was getting around like that and no contact was made. I guess to Mr. Quinton (as he stated above) it's just a business transaction. But I will say this: it may not be a business transaction to the people who were counting on that venue...looking forward to the beautiful layout and atmosphere...and who had spent money on invitations already. There's no consideration there at all for people who may have spent that money and had budgeted for the Majestic's venue fee AND their exclusive caterer. Because they only allowed one choice. Were brides and grooms given their deposit back from Wedgewood Catering? If not, I'd be SERIOUSLY looking for that money back from Mr. Quinton. He can help Peter Wedgewood understand, afterall it IS a business transaction.

    • as usual
      May 01, 2012 - 17:43

      typical NL entitlement....people need to understand that this is just business, nothing personal. Hopefully, there will be a contractual way for the sellers to squash any claims

  • Tough Luck
    April 11, 2012 - 10:43

    There's no legal obligation on the sellers to honor these bookings. If a downpayment was taken, this will be returned. It's a tough situation to be in, but not much anoyne can do about it. People getting married like to think that a wedding is the most important thing in the world. Newsflash, it's the biggest waste of money there is. Would you walk into MacDonalds and pay $39 for a Happy Meal? Lets face it, emotions get the best of people who are experiencing a wedding and everyone exploits this, from caterers to photographers right on down the line. Reality is that Half of them will be divorced in 5 years but they wont get their money back. hahaha

    • Mo
      April 11, 2012 - 12:13

      Bitter much??

  • Blame the Pentecostals
    April 11, 2012 - 10:31

    The Pentecostals should honour the bookings, despite their opposition to drinking and dancing which I am sure will happen. Be good corporate citizens for a once, Protestants.

  • tom walsh
    April 11, 2012 - 10:18

    sue the owner i am sure mr crosbie will lead a class action(not joking)

  • B
    April 11, 2012 - 10:16

    The bookings should have been included in the sale of the building or if they were selling the building in January they should not have taken anymore bookings.. Unless there is a 'For Sale' sign on the outside of the building how are people to know the building was up For Sale unless they were looking on MLS to buy a building.

  • Nicole R
    April 11, 2012 - 08:52

    I know sales happen, and things happen. But do you understand how hard it is to find a wedding venue with such short notice? Most places are booked 2 years in advance. It's April. People with summer weddings have already sent out invitations. The Majestic should have never agreed to a closing date until the last wedding was held. If you make a commitment you should stick to it! Opps doesn't cut it

    • more NL entitlement
      May 01, 2012 - 17:45

      but if they honoured the last wedding date, then that could jeopardize the sale. Like it or not, the sale is more important to the Majestic that are the weddings. Why would they try to accommodate people and put the sale at risk. As long as Majestic followed the law, then I have not problem with their conduct. If the broke the law, then nail them to the wall.

  • Frank
    April 11, 2012 - 08:08

    They're right to be upset. It's all well and good for that venue to be turned into a soup kitchen. But for the owners to put the building up for sale on what seems like a whim (from reading a previous interview) and then accept an offer, knowing it would be major trouble for the people already booked there is pretty slimy.