Post # 1
I’m in a bit of a sticky situation and hoping to get some insight as I wait to get in touch with an attorney that specializes in contracts. We paid a deposit on the venue in February 2020 for a wedding in May 2021. Due to COVID, we decided to cancel the wedding and just immediately marry and forgo the big celebration. We canceled with the venue over a year in advance. The contract states that we would receive 75% deposit back, less 25% for administrative fees if they can rebook with an event of equal or greater value.
Well, the venue was rebooked for our reserved date, but the party is only for 40 people instead of 200 as we were going to have. We were not notified that it rebooked, but instead found out because we stopped in to talk to someone to get an update. Well, now they’re saying we can’t get our deposit back since it’s not of equal or greater value which is understandable under normal circumstances, but due to COVID restrictions, I don’t think anyone would have ever been able to have an event of that size, including us had we proceeded with our date.
I understand contracts and didn’t get into a back and forth with the event coordinator, but I can’t help but feel that they’re taking advantage of the situation. All they did was reserve the date for us which was canceled over a year before the event which left plenty of time to rebook. There was no other work performed on their end on our behalf, nor any expenses for them to secure our date. I feel at minimum we should receive whatever the deposit that was paid by the party who booked our date.
We’re not looking for a full refund, but just feel backed into a corner at this point because we did sign the contract unfortunately. Just feels like there would be some sympathy due to the pandemic. I don’t know for certain, but I would find it hard to believe that as a business they didn’t receive some type of COVID relief funding from the government. The deposit was $3700 and it just feels like quite a bit of money to walk away from without seeing what our options are first. They’re essentially getting our deposit and money from the people who will be hosting an event that day. Any attorney bees out there have insight on if this is even worth pursuing a civil suit or contacting an attorney for legal advice at minimum?
Post # 2
You can usually get a free consultation with an attorney, so it’s worth finding one that does contracts and asking these questions. Call your local state bar association or visit their website to find someone who practices in contracts. However, as unfair as it seems, you agreed to the contract. Unfortunately, there really isn’t such a thing as sympathy when it comes to a legal agreement. Nor would a court take into consideration that the venue received covid relief $$. They might be getting your deposit plus the money from the people who re-booked but that party is significantly less than your 100+ person event compared to the 40 person event you are having. This is exactly the situation that the contract contemplates. You might be able to make an argument that it is impossible to rebook a party of equal or greater value if there are state restrictions in place but given the event is not scheduled until May, that is difficult as restrictions are likely to change before then. I won’t say its not worth your time to pursue. A lot of times hiring an attorney just to write a letter on your behalf can be enough to get the other party to come to a compromise. But, I would go into it with low expectations.
Post # 3
I’d look into the max for small claims court in your state. Might be easier and cheaper to represent yourself in small claims than go full on lawsuit.
If you show them you’re serious enough, they’ll probably pay up just to avoid the hassle.
Is this an all inclusive venue? Would they have made more money per guest?
Post # 4
I agree with pp. Definitely worth it to look into a lawyer, even if just for a free/low cost consultation. I also think your case will hinge on your states covid restrictions. If, for example, your state has limited weddings to 50 people, you would not be able to host a 200 person wedding anyways there may be some wiggle room. Did they change or create any new policies due to covid? I remember hearing about one place that wouldn’t let you cancel/rebook for no cost from covid until 8 weeks prior, as they were waiting for govt restrictions to guide what they were doing. I wonder if your venue has some sort of covid policy in place that you may be able to look at. Again agreeing with what pp said, there is no sympathy in contracts or business.
Post # 5
I unfortunately think you’re SOL because you decided to forego the venue all together. It would be one thing if you rebooked for a later date, but as far as I know most contracts (covid or not) basically offer you nothing it you walk away completely.It says you will get 75% of your deposit back if they are able to rebook for the same amount in the event of a cancellation? Or does it say in the event of a postponement? I would be very surprised if a venue is putting themselves at that much risk.
My venue had similar language that talked about a postponement, we get to apply our deposit to a new date if they were able to rebook our prior date, but we forego the deposit completely if we cancel.
It also had language that said something like if an unforeseen circumstance happened (covid) that made them not live up to their end of the contract (guest minimum) they would work with us to postpone to a new date at no additional cost or no deposit lost. But we actually had to postpone. If we walked away they get to keep it all.
Post # 6
Not an attorney, but have a lot of experience with this from the venue side. You’re SOL as you cancelled, and I would not throw good money after bad.
Are you in the States? If so and IF they got a covid loan, that money probably lasted three months of payroll, if that.
Eta: also, depending on your contract and state law, you may end up having to pay their legal fees if you sue.
Post # 7
Yeah that’s what I kind of figured which is why I remained polite with the coordinators at the venue, since we did agree to the terms. I know from a business standpoint, the contractual terms is all that matters. We were prepared to fully walk away without anything back until we found out that the venue did actually rebook, but I agree with you and certainly am keeping the expectations low. Really appreciate the perspective!
Small claims is what I’m leaning towards actually, I didn’t mean a civil suit. Sorry about that mix up. I’m only considering an attorney for legal advice to see if it’s worth the time to pursue even in small claims or if I’m wasting my time and just need to take it as a loss. This is not an all-inclusive venue and we were planning on using all of our own vendors with the exception of the bar which we had to get through the venue.
Even with new policies, they are solely going off the contracts we signed (pre-COVID) which is understandable. The only clause in there that mentions anything about a full refund is something along the lines of an unforeseen event/act of God that causes non-performance by the venue. This doesn’t apply because technically there was not a non-performance on their behalf since we were the ones who decided to cancel due to the circumstances.
Yes, now that you say that, maybe it was a pretty generous contract. The mention of the refund was surely regarding a cancellation, not postponement, but the caveat was that the event had to be of equal or greater value to actually get a portion refunded which makes sense in the grand scheme. I think there’s also a bit of me feeling jaded that we weren’t even informed that the date rebooked, but that the event didn’t qualify for the refund. I guess it just would’ve been a courtesy to at least contact us to let us know since the last conversation was regarding potential continued interest if the date didn’t rebook. We wanted to explore maybe keeping the date and applying the deposit for possibly a 1 year anniversary celebration if they couldn’t rebook.
Post # 8
Yes, we’re in the states. I’ve maintained kindness towards the event coordinators since I do understand we signed the contract, so I hope they don’t feel it was bad business. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant by “I would not throw good money after bad.” In any case, this is exactly the perspectives that I needed because I want to be fair and not allow my feelings about the situation to cloud judgment. Thank you for chiming in with perspective based on experience from the other side. It just felt like there was another in between option since the current covid restrictions would not have allowed for an event of equal or greater value at all. The venue’s total capacity is only 600 (280 for an event with seated dining and dance floor) and city guidelines say that the venues can only operate at 25% capacity. Our projected guest count was 225, so regardless of the type of event, I’m not sure how they would have gotten anything of equal or greater value.
Post # 9
It’s always worth consulting with a lawyer to have them read your full contract and apply the law of your specific jurisdiction. As a lawyer, I would urge you to not take the advice of posters here who are willing to give opinions without seeing the whole contract and knowing where the contract was entered into.
Assuming it’s a pretty short contract you should be able to get someone to review it and give you some basic advice for a few hundred dollars and you can then determine whether to pursue in small claims court.
Post # 10
It’s definitely a short contract, so a couple hundred is worth the peace of mind and possibility of much more back. I have some time set aside to search for someone in my area tomorrow to review it. Thanks for the reassurance!
Post # 11
what I meant was don’t spend more money when the chance is slim to none that you will recover anything. You cancelled and forfeited your deposit. If you hadn’t, then that would be a different story.
Post # 12
I agree that it’s just time to have a lawyer review the contract. It’s literally impossible to give any sort of advice without anyone being able to physically read the contract and the cancellation/postponement clauses themselves.
At the start of Covid vendors were a lot more lenient. At this point, most are really sitcking to their contracts because the thought is you CAN have a wedding it just has to be smaller. Had you postponed and picked a new date for the celebration it would likely be a non-issue but when flat out cancelling you unfortunately lose out. Really it’s going to boil down to the verbage of the contract. Does it specifically say rebooking “of equal or greater value” or does it just say rebooking? You can use the argument that a 200 person wedding won’t happen, and while yes it’s not responsible, there are many venues who have chosen to allow larger events. At the end of the day no one is stopping them, shutting them down, etc….at least not in my area.
Post # 13
I would forget it for 3700..you wont ever see that money from the venue even if you win in small claims.. they are likely bordering bankruptcy at this point because of covid..
Post # 14
This depends where you are. In NJ venues are capped at 25% of capacity by executive order. You legally CANNOT have a wedding larger than that. My contract had verbiage that stated if I chose to postpone they would apply my deposit only if they could rebook my date with a wedding of greater or equal value, but if an unforseen circumstance required THEM to not be able to live up to the contract, they would postpone us for no additional cost. My contract had a guaranteed guest minimum listed on it that they could not fulfill, so we postponed for no additional fee.
But if we were to cancel that’s a different story. They owe us nothing. The contract technically said we would owe the full amount if we canceled. Who knows if they would actually go after us for that, but they might given the circumstances.
OP – The reality is these venues go one of two ways; they either were sitting pretty on a lot of money and are able to pay absurd lawyer fees to recover as much as they lostand you would go bankrupt just trying to fight them OR they are hanging on by a thread and would not likely be able to pay you back your $3,700 anyway becuase they’ve lost a lot more than you. I am not a laywer but I personally don’t think it’s worth getting into a legal battle with an event venue, espeically over $3,700 dollars.
Post # 15
thanks for the clarity. That makes sense.
Not to lack empathy for the venue, but they’re not just a venue space for events. They’re actually primarily a type of retail business first that happens to just have space that can convert to host events. They’ve remained open during this time for regular business. Our city is definitely strict on the COVID policies. Businesses are being audited at random throughout this time. Here’s the exact verbiage from the clause about cancellation. I removed Venue Name for privacy.
If an event is canceled and [Venue Name Removed] can reschedule an additional event on the same day of equal or more value, [Venue Name Removed]
will return 75% of the deposit. 25% will be retained for administrative fees. These fees may be used to schedule and additional date if needed.
I can’t speak with certainty on their financial positions, but I would be surprised if they’re bordering bankruptcy. They’re a retail business first who also conducts classes as part of their normal business. They just happen to have the space to host events which is secondary to their primary purpose.
I commented earlier that I didn’t mean pursuing a civil case; that’s certainly not worth it, but a couple of hundred to go small claims could be. I wouldn’t go that route without checking with an attorney first to even see if there is a loophole somewhere or any way that this could be unfairly written if there are restrictions which would have never made the clause possible. I think the lack of communication is what really caused an issue. When I canceled, I asked to be notified if the date rebooked. It just feels at minimum like a courtesy to be informed that it rebooked, but didn’t meet the terms to receive a refund. Not being notified made it feel a little shady.