The owner of a popular Tampa wedding venue hoped to set the record straight on Thursday, telling only ABC Action News she never had any intentions of closing neither the 1930 Grande Room or Ivy Astoria, leaving dozens of couples with nowhere to go and thousands of dollars short.
Jennifer Sanschagrin called ABC Action News reporter Brendaliss Gonzalez, apologizing about not responding after several messages left asking for an explanation.
Couples first started worrying about the venues last month after they hadn’t heard from Jennifer or any of the staff, including her husband and business partner Anthony Sanschagrin.
A representative for the Florida Commercial Group, the property management company for both venues, told ABC Action News they and the owners reached a mutual agreement for the couple to vacate both spaces in downtown Ybor City.
However, Jennifer says she was never involved in such agreement, in fact, she only found out about the venues closing after the story aired on the news.
She says she was taking care of her father before he passed away and was dealing with her own health issues.
“I’m not trying to use my dad’s loss as an excuse,” she said in a phone interview she agreed to, a friend verifying her voice, “because that’s not an excuse, it’s a business and it should have run without it, but you know, sometimes in life things are out of your control and the best I can do is the best I can do.”
She says she later found out her husband hadn’t paid rent on 1930 Grande Room and that she attempted catching up on payments with the property management company, but they never reached an agreement before she was told they needed to move out.
Court records show Anthony filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month. He says he filed a personal claim and it had nothing to do with their business.
ABC Action News couldn’t verify her father was sick or passed away during the time the venues suddenly closed.
Jennifer says she’s speaking out despite her attorney’s advice not to, hoping to set the record straight and show she planned to keep the venues open despite her situation. She appointed a friend and mother of a former client to take over the business in the meantime, but heard news of the sudden closure before she could reach an agreement with the property manager.
“I would have sent an email to them (the couples who had booked their weddings at her venues) if I had intentions of closing and if there were issues,” she said, “But I didn’t send it because I didn’t have intentions of closing the venues, I was just as caught off guard as they were.”
Couples like Laura Newton are now scrambling to find a new place to celebrate their weddings since news of the closures broke.
Newton says she and her fiancée found a new venue, but she doesn’t understand why Jennifer never returned her calls or emails after she paid a deposit.
“I'm sorry you lost your father and you're going through health issues,” she said, “you don’t' wish that upon anybody, but imagine the situation you're putting other people in who work hard for their money and they entrusted you with their wedding.”
Jennifer says she didn’t have access to her company email account while she was with her father and says she began getting texts after a bride posted about the possibility of a sudden closure on a popular Facebook wedding chat group.
“I was caught off guard,” she said as the reason for not responding to the texts.
She says the venues were more than a job.
“For me it wasn’t even about making money,” she said, “it was about making other people happy.”
Now she hopes to make things right, unable to make any promises to the couples who booked their weddings with her, only saying she's doing what she can.
“I don’t know,” she said, “I wish I had answers, I wish I had a better statement for you, but it is what it is.”