Wedding bell blues

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

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on April 11, 2012
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.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel