Brides found themselves hunting for answers Tuesday night when The Barn on Huguley Road posted an announcement on Facebook that they were shutting down indefinitely while embroiled in a legal battle with the landowners.
Several weeks ago, the post says, the venue was asked to voluntarily shut down by the Alabama State Fire Marshall until they could present plans to have a fire suppression system installed in the barn.
This led to “other unforeseen discoveries that revealed enormous concerns.”
According to the venue, a partnership was undertaken with two landowners, Amy and Dave Alexander, when the barn was built. The landowners would put forth the land and the venue would construct the buildings. After they had all paid in equal costs, the two parties would share a 50/50 stake in the business.
Now, after the Fire Marshall’s assessment, the venue says the landowners are refusing to allow the venue owners access to the property.
“We have an attorney and are in the process of trying to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you informed of future developments,” the post reads.
Fire Marshall Scott F. Pilgreen confirmed that the venue had been asked to shut down several weeks ago.
“They do have to meet certain aspects of Alabama law, as well as building and fire requirements, which they do not meet right now.”
He said that the owners have to speak to an architect, who will then draw up plans for how to bring the space into compliance based on the venue’s intended use and occupancy.
“As I understand it, with the current way the folks wanted to use the facility, yes, very likely they are going to need a sprinkler system. That can be a very costly expense out there where they are in the county,” he said.
“I think they’re trying to do the right thing, and the good thing for the area. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, there were some steps that were missed along the way. We all became aware of that, we have all met, everybody understands, and we’re all trying to work together in order to do what is necessary to get the venue into compliance, if that’s what they choose to do.”
The Alexanders released a statement as representatives of DAKA Farms LLC Wednesday afternoon.
The statement says that all parties agreed that deficiencies in the building code would not be correctable until at least mid-September, and that one of the venue owners, Allen Belcher, personally agreed to contact affected customers and tell them that their events could no longer be held at the barn until corrections could be made.
“Currently, we have sufficient reason to believe the deficiencies will NOT be corrected,” the statement reads.
The statement also says that DAKA Farms is “diligently working to contact all customers and remit refunds as soon as possible.”
Customers are asked to send details of the event in writing to either email@example.com or by mail to DAKA Farks LLC, Attn: Reservations, PO Box 1647 Phenix City, Ala 36868.
The announcement unleashed a barrage of outrage from brides and families who had been planning a wedding at the location for months. Most of them had already put down several thousands dollars in deposits.
Angel Whitten said Allen Belcher called her daughter and told her that they would only get their money back if the venue owners won in court. Several commenters on the Facebook post told similar stories.
“They were told that the barn was not up to code. They said this has been coming about since April and we didn’t put our deposit down until June, so they knew this was happening and they still took our money.”
Other families are in the same boat.
“My daughter is one of the Brides for October! Invitations came in today!” wrote Tammy Blackmon Rogers.
“I put down a $2,000 deposit for my wedding October 7. I’m currently furious,” said Anna Louise Hall.
Members of other venues, caterers and hotels dropped in to offer their own venues and services to brides and families left hanging.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE