The owners of a South Lake Union wedding venue and art gallery, who abruptly shut down their business explaining to customers via email that the building had been badly damaged in an electrical fire, now say their lease was terminated in a process “more complicated than we originally shared in our first letter.”
An email sent to to customers today makes no mention of a fire.
“This was not a problem with the building,” they wrote. “It was the landlord who chose to end our lease, ending our business.”
EM Fine Art customers received emails last week and on Monday saying fire had destroyed the gallery’s electrical system, causing $100,000 in damage, and because of the fire, the owners’ lease was terminated, effectively immediately.
The email went on to say that EM Fine Art was not obligated to return customers’ deposits because there’s a “force majeure” statement in their contracts. “Force majeure” is a French term meaning “greater force” that frees a party from a contract if something occurs that is beyond the party’s control.
Yet the Seattle Fire Department has no records of any fire in the past two years at EM Fine Art, located at 410 Dexter Ave. N. The building is slated for demolition, and the land-use application for a proposed 11-story structure was accepted last month.
About 80 customers, including many soon-to-be brides and grooms, lost a combined $70,000-plus in deposits. The customers have formed a Facebook group to discuss other wedding venues and share how to file reports to police and the state attorney general.
The owners, Roland and Amanda Crane, wrote in an email today that they lost the venue and business on June 4, 2014. The email doesn’t mention customer deposits.
“It was a mistake not to tell you the full story,” the Cranes wrote.
Multiple attempts to contact the owners today and earlier this week have been unsuccessful.