Couples left in the cold: Wedding venue shuts doors, keeps deposits

SEATTLE --  It’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of their lives, but instead Nick Routh and Crystal Ballou are shellshocked about their upcoming wedding.

The place where they were supposed to tie the knot, E-M Fine Arts,  abruptly shut down.

"I'm getting more angry, it's kind of building up inside," said Routh. "I've had trouble sleeping for the last two nights."

Dozens of  couples booked the venue for upcoming weddings and receptions. They are now scrambling to find a new place, and the money to pay for it.

"Right now I’m really angry, I’m also really sad," said bride-to-be Kristina Hloptsidis. "This was supposed to be our day, it was supposed to be this great party."

Hloptsidis is out her $1,300 deposit. Everyone who made a down payment is.  All told, they paid nearly $70,000 to the couple who owns E-M Fine Arts, Roland and Amanda Crane.

In an email to their customers, the couple claimed a fire in the building damaged the electrical system and would cost $100,000 to fix.

“You have our deepest regrets and sympathies,” they wrote in the email. Citing the clause "force majeure," which is essentially an act of God, they also stated, “We do not have any obligation to make payments to you."

According to the Seattle Fire Department, there hasn’t been a fire in that building in years.

Hloptsidis and others who say they’ve been ripped off by the Cranes are now organizing on Facebook, helping each other find other venues and talking lawsuits.

The Cranes disconnected their phones, and pulled their website and Facebook pages. No one answered at the door of the home they were apparently living in.

Many of their customers are also upset to learn the building that housed their business is slated to be demolished, and yet the Cranes continued to collect deposits and booked dates into the summer of 2015.

The whole thing is leaving couples like Nick and Crystal feeling like they’ve been scammed out of what was supposed to be the most special moment in their lives.

"It's absolutely devastating."