A popular Waikato wedding venue has been abruptly shut, forcing a business owner into liquidation and nearly 20 couples in limbo.
Sonya Julian, manager of Coopers Function Centre, says she was blindsided by the building owner's decision to suddenly close, leaving her without anywhere to hold nearly 20 weddings booked over the next 10 months.
After seeking legal advice, Julian told the Herald she had no option but to go into receivership, leaving her in severe debt and many couples out of pocket of their $500 deposit.
Coopers Function Centre is owned by Mystery Creek Wines Ltd. It's key shareholder is Lynette Erceg.
One Cambridge bride-to-be, who didn't want to be named, had her wedding booked in March next year with 120 people.
She says she doesn't hold any bad feelings towards Julian, but hoped there could be more discussions held around her deposit with Coopers and her caterer.
"We had all our vendors booked, catering, hair, makeup, florist, photographer.
"We had 120 people, including us. It was a big thing for us having a venue that could fit over 100 people and be BYO."
She said it was a struggle to find a venue that accommodated BYO alcohol which, with such a large wedding party, helped save them money.
She said they were yet to receive their deposits; $500 for Coopers and $2500 for the catering company.
"We tried to talk to the catering company to see if we could get anything back as it was 10 months out and the closing of a venue was out of our control but they have said no, they will not refund anything at all.
"At this rate, if we don't get anything back from coopers either we have lost just over $3000. That's a lot of money."
She said she and her fiance were also new, first-time parents and trying to plan such a large wedding and losing money along the way was "heartbreaking".
"We even talked about cancelling the wedding because we aren't really able to financially carry on with booking a new venue and paying new caterers but have decided we will just have to find a way.
"To now have this all happen with this venue, it has taken a huge toll on me mentally. thankfully my family have been super supportive and done a lot of the hard work calling venues, trying to find out about deposits and helping me re-work dates."
She said they were fortunate enough to find a new venue that accommodated the BYO but they had to book a new date.
"It sucks because we have had to go later in the year and there will be a higher chance of cold, wet weather but its the best we could do after calling numerous other venues.
"I have no bad feelings towards Sonya, it's not fault of hers but I would like to have more communication about out deposits, regardless of who should be paying it back should be for them to sort out not leave a lot of brides waiting and upset."
Julian said she felt sorry for couples that she had been working with and had tried to negotiate with the building's owners - the Mystery Creek - to still host weddings booked through to January next year, without luck.
She said the owners were now not returning her calls or answering emails.
She said changes to the lease in March gave her no clue that the venue was going to be closed. "I had no idea from that meeting that they were going to pull the carpet out from under me and say, first of all it's going to close [immediately] and then two days later that they're going to re-purpose it."
She said the Waipa council's liquor licensing inspector was on-site during level 3 lockdown and she took people out to the venue just days before the owners told her they were closing its doors.
"I did not know what was going to happen otherwise why would I continue to show people through? I wouldn't operate like that.
"The decision was taken out of my hands and given the changes that were made to the lease, I don't really have any say or can't do anything about it."
Julian said covid had "heavily affected" the businesses income but she felt just as let down by the Mystery Creek board, as the couples had been by her.
Putting her business into liquidation was a tough decision, she said, and one she would feel the impacts of going forward.
The Herald has put a request for comment to the chair of the Mystery Creek board.