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Colorado wedding venue owner defends refund policy after couples complain

Posted at 6:01 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 21:51:45-04

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- It's easy to see why Willow Ridge Manor is a popular wedding venue: The property sits next to stunning rock formations where couples can take photos after their vows; that picturesque setting won over couples who are now fighting to get their money back when COVID-19 interrupted their wedding plans.

"I reached out because I felt like what this company was doing wasn’t right," said Keith Sprau.

Keith Sprau and his wife, Amanda, reached out to Contact Denver7 with concerns about the venue's refund policy. They ended up taking the owners of Willow Ridge Manor to court and won.

After that story, the owners of Willow Ridge Manor reached out and agreed to do an interview. Gregory Sargowicki and his partner, Lawrence French, have owned the business for 24 years.

"We were absolutely devastated," said Sargowicki as he talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 wedding season. "We didn’t know how to handle this, neither did anybody else, we were getting tons of telephones calls from our existing clients saying, 'how can you help us?'"

Sargowicki said he talked with his clients in order to figure out a solution. He came up with three options for couples that needed to reschedule their date. Couples can choose to have their wedding ceremony now and hold the reception at a later date or couples can move their wedding to another date through March 2021 at no additional charge. If a couple wants to move their wedding to a date after March 2021 they will end up paying an additional fee.

"I have to say that the vast majority of my clients, I only have maybe four or five customers who experience huge dissatisfaction, most of them are saying, 'you know, we understand you have to run the business, we’re not happy you have to charge us, we fully understand this,'" said Sargowicki.

For example, if a couple wants to reschedule their June 2020 wedding to June 2021, he would give them 50% of their money back in the form of a credit. That credit would be applied to the full amount to reserve the venue next year.

"I feel like I am more than fair to my clients," said Sargowicki.

Some couples don't see it that way and say they don't have the extra money to secure the date they want.

"Booking a wedding the first time around is expensive enough," said Julia Blyumkin.

Blyumkin and her fiancée, Sergey Zhurya, shared their story with Contact Denver7 this spring. They paid for a Saturday during peak wedding season and didn't think it was fair for the owners to offer them another wedding date on a weekday or during the off season.

"It wouldn’t be comparable from a financial standpoint. We remitted payment for a Saturday full-day wedding, peak season, and to be offered a weekday during off season, winter, at essentially the same price, isn't comparable," said Blyumkin.

Sargowicki insists he is doing everything he can to accommodate couples, but he's also trying to stay in business.

"We have tremendous expenses just to keep the lights on in this building," said Sargowicki. "We have to survive this, we have to survive this.”