CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago brides and grooms say they’re out thousands of dollars after their South Loop wedding venue closed without warning.
The couples say they can’t reach owner Chris Moran to get their money back, and were left scrambling and paying thousands of dollars more to secure a new space.
Their situation now has the attention of Chicago officials and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Planning a wedding was supposed to be a memorable experience for Lauren Balog.
“From planning to saving, thinking about the perfect day, the perfect moment, and so I would say I was very excited to finally get married,” she said.
Balog had planned an October wedding at a new venue in Chicago’s South Loop called The Stockhouse. She and her then-fiancé Daniel said they met with the manager of The Stockhouse, Joshua Yates, and fell in love with the space.
They said they paid $9,798.44 in total to secure the space, but just weeks before their big day they received a disturbing email from their caterer.
“That our venue will no longer be in operations, and that’s how we found out,” Balog said. “Through our catering company.”
They eventually got an email from The Stockhouse, which said, “We are writing to inform you we must close down venue operations. We have encountered significant obstacles that prevent us from moving forward…We have done our best to keep the doors open and had every intent to fulfill your contract. However circumstances beyond our control have led us to close.”
The couple said they had to shell out another $8,000 to book a different venue for their wedding, and have yet to receive a call back or refund from The Stockhouse. And they’re not alone.
“We lost $8,000 and had to spend $10,000 to re-plan the wedding, so about $18,000,” said Stephanie Noel.
Noel and her husband Kevin said they also booked a wedding at The Stockhouse, but found out on social media the venue had closed. Like the Balogs they said they haven’t been able to reach manager Yates or owner Moran to get their money back.
“How could you do this to someone in one of their most vulnerable points, what should be one of their most happy and sacred points in their life?” Kevin Noel said.
“We want to see some type of action. We want to hold these individuals accountable,” said Stephanie.
The ABC7 I-Team has heard from other couples from both The Stockhouse and The Zephyr, another wedding venue in the South Loop, both of which are operated under the parent company Chicago Loft Venues. State records show Chicago Loft Venues is owned by Moran.
The I-Team has tried to reach Moran by phone, texting and email, and even stopped by his home to try to get answers about the couple’s refunds, but were unable to reach him.
The City of Chicago’s Consumer Protection Division (BACP) said it has also received multiple complaints against The Stockhouse and The Zephyr. The city said it has issued notices of violation, citations, and a cease and desist order to the venues for operating without a business license.
The state of Illinois is also investigating, and the Attorney General’s Office said it has received 34 complaints about the two venues. They are working to gather information to assist consumers.
The Balogs and the Noels said they may never see any of their money again, but are coming forward to protect other couples from this financial and emotional pain.
“I was raised to let it go. Life goes on but something like this, you just really want Chris Moran to get what’s coming to you. And I hope legally, something does,” said Kevin Noel.
The BCAP is urging anyone who’s been affected by these wedding venues to file a formal complaint by calling 311 or using the CHI311 mobile app. You can also visit 311.chicago.gov.
If you have a consumer complaint you’d like Samantha Chatman to investigate, click here.
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