The Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a South Lake Union wedding venue and art gallery who are accused of booking events, including many weddings, that they knew they wouldn’t be able to hold before they abruptly shut down the business in June.
EM Fine Art owners Roland and Amanda Crane are accused of violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act, according to a complaint filed in King County Superior Court on Wednesday. The complaint alleges that at least 80 would-be customers lost more than $50,000 in deposits and other payments.
EM Fine Art customers received an email in June saying that there had been a fire at the venue, at 410 Dexter Ave. N., and that the owners were not obligated to return customers’ deposits because the fire was beyond their control. The Seattle Fire Department had no record of any fire in the building.
The owners revised their story in a second email sent a few days later and wrote that the landlord had terminated their lease. The Cranes wrote in an email to The Seattle Times that they had “fought, and fought hard” against the closure.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, an investigation showed that the owners knew for months that their lease would be terminated, but they continued to rent the space through 2015. The venue was in a building slated for demolition to make way for an 11-story structure.
The owners “engaged in unfair and deceptive acts and practices and should be held civilly liable for them,” the office said in a news release.
The Cranes wrote in June that the “allegation that we have ‘stolen money’ is false,” and that they acted in accordance with their contracts. According to the Cranes, the contracts stated that payments were nonrefundable and that they didn’t have an obligation to pay should they suffer a loss of venue.
The complaint asks that the court have the EM Fine Art owners pay back their customers and pay up to $2,000 for each violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.