The owners of a South Lake Union wedding venue and art gallery, who emailed customers that they’d been forced to abruptly shut down because of an electrical fire and subsequent termination of their lease, said Thursday that they are “terribly sorry,” but won’t be refunding their customers’ payments.
A second email to customers on Wednesday made no mention of a fire but said the building wasn’t an issue in shuttering their business. This email said the landlord had terminated their lease.
EM Fine Art owners Roland and Amanda Crane wrote in an email to The Seattle Times on Thursday that they had “fought, and fought hard,” against the closure.
“Clearly the closure of EM Fine Art has affected our clients in a big way,” the Cranes wrote in the statement. “We did not close the venue willingly. We know this affects real people, with real lives. We have always truly cared about our clients.”
EM Fine Art customers received a first email last week and Monday saying there’d been a fire, which, the owners wrote, had caused $100,000 in damage to the gallery. The email went on to say that EM Fine Art was not obligated to return customers’ deposits because the fire was beyond their control.
The Seattle Fire Department has no record of any fire in the past two years at EM Fine Art, which was located at 410 Dexter Ave. N. A second email sent Wednesday revised the story, saying that the business’ lease had been terminated. It made no mention of a fire or customer deposits.
A letter addressed to Roland Crane was sent from the fire department in May that said the building would be removed for a new project within the next year. Customers, whose deposits total more than $80,000, were scheduled for weddings and other events through July 2015.
The Cranes wrote that the “allegation that we have ‘stolen money’ is false,” and that they have acted in accordance with their contracts, which state payments are nonrefundable, and neither party has an obligation to the other should they suffer a loss of venue.
More than 80 customers have formed a Facebook group to discuss other event venues and share how to file reports to police and the state attorney general. The Seattle Police Department is not investigating, as it said the situation is a civil, not criminal matter.