At 6:32 a.m. on the day of his wedding, Bao Le got a text from the owner of the Seattle venue where his reception was to be held in a matter of hours.
“I have some difficult news to deliver to you,” Peter Olson of The Landing at Shilshole began his July 13 text. The venue, he said, had been shut down by the City of Seattle. You could still have the wedding reception there, Olson said, “But there is a chance the City will stop the event once it starts.”
Indeed, the City of Seattle had posted a “stop work” notice on the door of The Landing months before — in January — after receiving anonymous complaints that Olson was making renovations to the building without proper permits.
The “stop work” order was not shutting down the venue, according to Moon Callison, spokeswoman for the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. “(Olson) needed to stop the work he was doing and get the permits to move forward,” Callison explained. “We were not going to shut down a wedding.”
But Olson didn’t tell this couple — or any of the others who had booked events and paid deposits through next summer — of his troubles until the very last minute.
“He had to have found out until Thursday or Friday and didn’t tell us until Saturday,” said Khang Le, brother of bride Kristin Le. “So we couldn’t do anything.”
Olson certainly had the chance, he said. Just two days earlier, the couple, their families and their bridal party spent two hours rehearsing at The Landing. Olson assured them that the ongoing construction would be finished in time for their big day. In fact, he said, there was an event scheduled the day before theirs. Not to worry.
They didn’t see the bright-red notice from the city on the front door, because someone had covered it with a poster advertising The Landing’s features, he said.
“(Olson) was doing this intentionally,” Khang Le said. “He knew full well what could happen. He just did it anyway.”
Olson’s voicemail is full, but he responded to an email from The Seattle Times on Tuesday: “I am working as fast as I can to resolve the deposits and find alternative locations for all of the impacted events,” he wrote. “A letter will be going out to clients tonight and a follow-up letter next week.
“I am working on a few solutions that will come out this week,” he wrote.
Just before 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Olson sent out an email to some of the people who had booked The Landing: “First, let me apologize from the bottom of my heart for the stress and anguish I have put all of you through. This was not my intent, but I am 100% responsible.”
He said that he has been “finding solutions to this mess,” and that a local company “has reached out to help.”
The email included an attachment from Sam Benton, the general manager of The Ruins, The Fremont Foundry and the MV Skansonia. Benton offered Olson’s jilted clients one of her sites and to honor “up to 50 percent of your deposit to a maximum of $10,000 deposit, as long as we are able to work with your date and handle both your event space rental, and food and beverage.”
Benton had seen a television-news story about The Landing’s troubles, and reached out to Olson. “Zero connection,” she said, when asked if they knew each other previously. “I only met him once. I’m not coming to his rescue. I’m just trying to take care of the clients.”
Alexandra Bede, 27, booked The Landing at Shilshole last March for a wedding to be held in August 2020. She and her fiancee wanted a wedding with “a specific Northwest feeling.” With its water and mountain views, indoor/outdoor space, local beer, wine and food, The Landing fit the bill.
When Bede and her fiancé looked at the place in March, it was still under construction. But Olson assured them at the time that the work would be completed well before for their event.
Then last week, Bede got an email from her wedding planner, alerting her to a story about the closing in the MyBallard blog.
And late Tuesday, she got the email from Olson. “None of those venues fit larger capacities,” she said, “and there’s nothing about getting our money back. I wouldn’t go to any of them.”
So she is scrambling to find another venue close enough so her wedding band — which has already cashed her deposit — can make it. She called Willows Lodge in Woodinville, the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle and The Woodmark in Kirkland.
“All of them are booked,” Bede said. “So we’re planning to go elsewhere in Washington.”
The Landing at Shilshole website boasts two spaces: The Black Star Room, a 2,500-square-foot. space that accommodates 150 guests and costs $1,500 to rent on weekdays; and $3,000 and $4,000 on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The larger, lower level Agate Room, which seats up to 350 guests, rents for $3,000 during the day and $5,000 in the evening, Monday through Thursday; and $7,000 and $8,000 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The website lists free parking for up to 150 vehicles, room set-up and cleanup, a day-of coordinator, plates, silverware and glassware and in-house bar and catering services under separate contract.
The Landing at Shilshole’s slogan: “Allow Us to Put the Peaceful in Your Planning.”
On Yelp, other people wrote of their panic, and their anger at Olson.
A woman named Averill A. wrote: “My wedding is in 12 days. I had no idea that the venue had shut down. I was getting suspicious that no one was responding to my calls and emails — it’s only because of these yelp posts that I found out today that my reception was canceled. If you are getting married August 2019 and beyond … you have to look for a new venue. I’m so so sorry to the couples already affected by this.”
A woman named Kellie C., whose daughter is a class officer at her high school, wrote of how the students chose The Landing for their senior prom next May and paid Olson a $4,000 deposit.
“Where did all the deposit money go $$$???? Will the AG or City get involved? Did the landlord know he was shutdown or does Peter own the building?”
Seattle City Attorney’s Office spokesman Dan Nolte said his office hadn’t received any complaints.
Khang Le recalled his family’s wedding-day scramble to find another venue after learning that The Landing had been shut down. Within hours, they found that Great Hall at Green Lake was available, and raced over to set everything up.
“We had to do everything,” Le said. “We got there at 12:30 and there were 30 to 40 people trying to help out. You can imagine. Everyone was carrying chairs, tables, and pretty much everything was put together in four hours.”
The food had been ordered from a different restaurant than The Landing and was rushed over to the new venue. “By the time we got it, it was cold.”
The family is grateful to their relatives and friends for their understanding, Le said, and his sister’s wedding was a success despite it all.
“The only thing we took out of it was the value of having good friends and family,” he said. “There’s no point in crying because nothing was going to change. We were just so happy, because we thought people would be offended and not show up. But they stayed until the end.”