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Seaport Wedding Venue Leaves Brides-to-Be Dangling After Sandy

By Irene Plagianos | January 30, 2013 7:10am

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — Just three days after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the city, high-end South Street Seaport catering hall Bridgewaters gave its clients reassuring news.

Despite the storm's battering, the popular wedding and event venue had survived largely unscathed. Power would soon be turned back on and the parties were set to resume.

But, more than three months later, Bridgewaters is still closed. There's no opening date in sight, and its owners are locked in a legal battle with the landlord. Dozens of couples have had to hold their weddings elsewhere, and many more are uncertain if their plans need to be changed.

Making matters worse, some brides say, is Bridgewaters' lack of communication and delay in returning deposits — forcing couples to remain in limbo.

“Due to your company’s inability to communicate critical matters affecting the operation of your business to your clients, I had to learn of the ... closure of Bridgewaters on January 9, 2013, less than five months before my wedding, through an article,” bride Kelly Meehan, who is set to marry in June, wrote in an irate email to the catering hall Jan. 16.

“Since you are in the business of event planning, I assume you realize the large amount of planning and commitment that a wedding requires, especially a destination wedding like mine where a majority of guests are coming from out of town."

She said she can't make alternative plans until her $5,526.77 deposit is returned and her contract nullified.

"While it is supposed to be a time of excitement, requiring me to stay in that contract will strip me of that joy,” Meehan wrote.

Meehan's plea appeared in court papers as part of a bitter fight between Bridgewaters and its landlord, The Howard Hughes Corporation, over when — or if — the venue will be able to reopen its doors.

The two sides are due back in Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday for a hearing on a preliminary injunction that would force Howard Hughes to allow the catering hall to reopen.

Bridgewaters used Meehan's email as part of its supporting evidence in the case, to show the urgency of getting the venue back on its feet.

Meehan did not respond to request for comment from DNAinfo New York.

Other brides with weddings in the next several months said they've had trouble getting a response from the venue. According to court documents, more than 50 events have been canceled because of the closure. It's cost the venue more than $1.3 million.

"Our clients, many of whom have events slated for the spring and summer, are canceling because we cannot guarantee that we will be open by that time," Bridgewaters CEO Peter Glazier said in a sworn affidavit.

"Indeed, we cannot book any events currently because we cannot represent to clients when Bridgewaters will reopen."

But some brides said Bridgewaters reps are doing just that — promising dates they can't guarantee to stop them from going elsewhere.

“My [fiance] and I were just floored. I was furious,” said a summer bride who asked not to be named.

“This is no way to run a high-caliber business — they weren’t communicating with us. This is the biggest day of our lives and it feels like it doesn’t matter to them.”

One groom-to-be said he's afraid of even asking to break the contract, worrying that Bridgewaters will sue him and his fiancee.

“Technically, we aren’t allowed to cancel our contract — only they can do that,” said the man, who has already placed a deposit on another venue.

In a statement to DNAinfo.com New York, a Bridgewaters representative said, “With other businesses reopening, Bridgewaters had every expectation that it would be permitted to resume operations expeditiously.

"We have notified all of our clients and gave them as much notice as possible to make other arrangements. We remain committed to open as soon as the landlord allows us.”

As first reported by the Real Deal last month, Bridgewaters sued Howard Hughes Corporation for breach of contract on Dec. 24, claiming the landlord refuses to open the building despite the fact it only sustained minor wind damage during Sandy.

Bridgewaters, which has been in business for 25 years, claims Hughes is trying to evict them in “bad faith” because they have a below-market lease.

Hughes contends that the hall's 11 Fulton St. building has extensive damage to gas lines and its sprinkler system, as well as the elevators.

Howard Hughes has countersued Bridgewaters for back rent, saying the catering hall owes the company more than $300,000 — a claim the venue denies.

Howard Hughes said in a statement to DNAinfo.com New York that they also wish to resolve the standoff, but they added that they can't reopen until Bridgewaters pays up and repairs to the building are complete.

"We would be very pleased to see Bridgewaters pay us all of the money that it owes and everyone get back to business after the extensive remediation of the Fulton Market Building is completed," the company said in a statement.

But the closure may cost the hall much more in damage to its reputation, brides warn.

"This is supposed to be the happiest time in our lives,” said the summer bride, who still has not decided on her next step for her wedding.

“Now we have to worry about a new venue, new costs. I love Bridgewaters, we all do, but this is just not right.”