KEUKA PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — Imagine you put down thousands of dollars on your dream wedding. Then, COVID-19 hits, calling off your plans, and on top of that, you can’t get in touch with the venue you made the plans with for weeks.
Close to a dozen people who had wedding plans say they have not been able to reach anyone with the historic restored Esperanza Mansion since mid-March, and are worried about the money they put down. The phone is disconnected, and up until tonight, had no email exchanges.
“As of right now, I have $10,000 into it,” says Kathryn Bailey who was due to get married at the mansion next month, everything already paid for.
Bailey says she and her fiancée have not heard from anyone since March 17th. Any comments on social media highlighting their predicament, disappear. “I mean, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to have my wedding, I just really want my money back at this point,” she says.
And she’s not alone. At least four other couples with thousands of dollars each down reached out to News 8 for answers.
Kate Savage says she put down $5,000 and has been waiting to see if her money is still good. She’s emailed the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s office looking for answers.
“We’re sending in thousands and thousands of dollars to their business. The least they can do is send an email back,” says Savage.
Monday, all these couples in waiting now have some answers on refunds and re-scheduling.
News 8 found the old company, “Esperanza Mansion Group LLC” shut down. And a new company, “Esperanza Mansion and Inn, LLC” has taken over.
The new owners, Lawrence and Elizabeth Mehlehbacher, sent an email to customers Monday evening saying they’d be happy to re-schedule any events. The email said in part, “If you scheduled an event with the prior operating company and desire to proceed with your event at the Esperanza Mansion, we would be delighted to speak with you about making arrangements to book a date with the new operator ‘Esperanza Mansion and Inn, LLC'”.
But when it comes to any refunds, the Mehlehbacher’s say folks will have to track down the previous owners, “Esperanza Mansion Group, LLC”. News 8 did speak with the old owners, who say an attorney is preparing a response.
But through it all, Bailey and others still want to get married at the legendary mansion overlooking the lake. “You know, everybody loves the Esperanza. It’s an icon,” she says.
UPDATE: The previous owners did release a statement via their lawyer Wednesday evening
“Lawrence and Elizabeth Mehlenbacher sent an email recently to Esperanza Mansion customers who are seeking a refund for cancelled weddings, telling these customers to contact Todd Alexander to get their money back. Todd Alexander, in an anticipated lawsuit, alleges that many statements made in this email message, which was covered by WROC TV, are simply false; most notably that Mr. and Mrs. Mehlenbacher are the “new operators” of the mansion. “The Esperanza Mansion is a jewel of the Finger Lakes region. Our client, Todd Alexander, played a key role in helping restore the mansion to its glory for its grand reopening last summer; and, along with Mr. Alexander, the Mehlenbachers were a part of the mansion operations. “Unfortunately, the luster of the grand reopening has quickly worn off. There is now an ongoing business divorce between the parties, as well as other disputes between my clients and Mr. and Mrs. Mehlenbacher and others that will need to be resolved in court, once the New York State Court resumes full operations. Until then, my client’s prepared lawsuit against Mr. and Mrs. Mehlenbacher and others cannot be filed. “However, as the prepared lawsuit alleges, Mr. Mehlenbacher has improperly interfered with the mansion’s finances. Therefore, any Esperanza Mansion customer who has questions about their event or their deposit, or who is seeking a refund, should contact Mr. Mehlenbacher directly at LDM1@lmcic.com. As the prepared lawsuit further alleges, Mr. Mehlenbacher has also improperly misappropriated the mansion’s customer-contact information, which is why our client has not been able to contact mansion customers directly.”
-Peter J. Glennon, president, The Glennon Law Firm PC (on behalf of Todd Alexander)