Soon-to-be brides and grooms who thought they had found their dream wedding spot at a South Lake Union art gallery are scrambling to find new venues after the gallery owners informed them an electrical fire had put them out of business.
Kate Solomon sent wedding invitations last week listing the date and Seattle venue: Sept. 28 at EM Fine Art, 410 Dexter Ave. N.
Monday morning, she received an email from the gallery owners saying a fire last week had destroyed the electrical system, and that the business’ lease is being terminated, effective immediately. The owners wrote that the fire caused $100,000 damage.
There’s a “force majeure” statement in the rental contract, the owners wrote. “Force majeure,” a French term meaning greater force, frees a party from a contract if something occurs that is beyond the party’s control. The email goes on to say EM Fine Art is not obligated to return couples’ deposits.
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Solomon and other customers have each lost hundreds of dollars in deposits and, in some cases, have only a few months to find another venue for their events.
A list of deposits compiled by 48 EM Fine Art customers totals nearly $70,000.
“You have our deepest regrets and sympathy,” the email said. “Our business is also over, seemingly in the blink of an eye, and we have our own rebuilding to do now.”
The Seattle Fire Department has no records of a fire at 410 Dexter Ave. N. in the past two years, spokesman Kyle Moore said Monday. The venue is in a building slated for demolition to make way for an 11-story structure, and the land-use application was accepted last month.
Attempts Monday and Tuesday to contact the business owners, Roland and Amanda Crane, were unsuccessful. The gallery’s website is no longer available and its voice mailbox is full. The gallery door is locked, and the windows are covered by black curtains. The business’ location and mailing address listed with the Washington State Department of Revenue is a mailbox at a UPS store.
Customers said that before this week, the owners were courteous and responded to their concerns promptly.
Putting down a deposit was a “no brainer,” said Geoff Murray, who paid a $1,200 in December toward his July 2015 wedding.
Solomon and her fiancé paid an $850 deposit. Friends and family are coming to Seattle from out of town, so they can’t change the date. Solomon already has appointments to look at two new wedding venues.
“To have everything settled and then to have the rug pulled out underneath, it’s shocking,” Solomon said. “It’s not a whole lot of money, but still really frustrating.”
In response to the sudden closing of EM Fine Art, a number of other wedding venues have offered available dates and said they will provide discounts. After Axis Pioneer Square posted it had openings for this summer, its phones starting “ringing off the hook,” the gallery and photography studio wrote on its Facebook page.
Berlin Kofoed planned to get married at EM Fine Art next week, and was excited about the event space. She thought it was “artsy and different,” and loved the exposed brick wall that ran along one side, she said.
“That’s why I’m so upset about this,” Kofoed said. “Because it was the perfect place.”
Her wedding will now be at a venue owned by a friend of her stepfather’s, who gave them a discount.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org