October 25, 2014

Villains, Victims, and Gotcha Journalism – Wedding Venue – Griffin Mansion, Las Vegas, closes abruptly

Wedding WoesNews, Analysis and Opinion of The Wedding Marketing Blog:

My News 3, a Las Vegas NBC TV affiliate, aired several stories about the closure of Griffin Mansions, a local wedding venue. The first of several stories aired, last Friday, June 29th. (videos are available for viewing on the Channel 3, site).

The first story follows the experiences of one bride and includes some ‘undercover footage’ of a faux-bride, touring the mansion, though it was not operational at the time.

Facts, information and meaningless points

The mansion has been closed for ‘health code’ violations since mid-May. The story includes an appearance from a Health District representative. He explains that the venue only had ‘bar permit‘ which was suspended for several reasons. After the news-piece ran, a station anchor added the venue had been hosting weddings for about five years, but never had a permit for preparing/serving food or hosting weddings.

My News 3 reporter, Michelle Velez  made a point of explaining the tragic nature of couples being thrown into chaos when informed that their weddings could not take place, as planned. She also asked for a comment from a mansion worker, who closed the gates in her face with, “No comment”. The reporter had not yet asked a question when she received the ‘no comment’ response. Then she asked a question to the closed gate, apparently to get the situation ‘on the record’  for News 3 cameras.

Velez stated “The owner of Griffin Mansion is under criminal investigation.” Never said who it was, what the investigation was about, or if it was relevant to this story.

The story also underscored that the venue continued to try to book business, though operations were suspended.

A little research…

A few phone calls on my part, quickly uncovered that staff, at Griffin, had made every effort to move weddings and events to other facilities. And, had been successful, in some cases.

As of yesterday, the Griffin Mansion website and Facebook page were down. Customer of the mansions reported phone calls were not being returned. I know of one person who had conversations with the event manager. I would speculate that the shutdown of the website and Facebook page indicate Griffin Mansion will not make a comeback.

Victims

There are multiple sets of victims. The wedding couples, and their families… on multiple levels that seem quite obvious.

The next set of victims are event professionals, scheduled to work these events. It seems pretty clear that many receptions have not or will not take place. Those vendors will lose the bookings and be unlikely to replace them on short notice.

Members of Griffin Event Staff (both part-time and fulltime) are collateral damage, through the failures of ownership and management.

The entire Las Vegas wedding community gets a black eye, as a by-product of this fiasco. Many cities have gone through similar experiences, be it the closure of a Bridal Salon or some other fiasco. The mud gets splattered on everyone.

Griffin Mansion

Villains

The obvious culprit is Griffin Mansion ownership and management, having failed to seek or obtain proper permitting for five years. It is difficult to believe that these failures could have taken place out of ignorance.

The owner either KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that food service and event venue permits were necessary.

In my opinion: The County Health District appears incompetent, at a minimum. Any bit of curiosity, at the start, or anytime during the last five years, would have uncovered the lack of proper permits. Shutting the venue down is proper, but it leaves every unsuspecting wedding couple in the lurch.

Gotcha Journalism

The news story, as it stands, today, is of limited value… the horses have already left the barn! The venue is closed, period. It seems 99.9% certain that it will not reopen. A story, such as this one, does only so much to improve awareness. Unfortunately, it cannot do much to increase the likelihood of booked clients getting money back.

The story filled a few minutes of the news hour with some drama, but the concrete impact on wedding couples and businesses needs a lot more detail.

Home-Based Venues

Las Vegas has had its share of challenges with home-based venues. Some homes are rented out as party-houses, under sketchy zoning, as “vacation rentals,” for example. Those generate noise complaints, among other ordinances they likely violate.

In this case, it’s surprising that no wedding vendors (that I’m aware of) noticed the lack of a Health Permit, at any point in the last five years. When one is working in a home-based venue for events, a sharper eye is important.

Silver Lining

Hard to find, in this case. Hopefully, wedding professionals will pay more attention to who they work with. This is a tragedy for every wedding couple, their guests, the wedding professionals, and event staff at the mansion.

If you have other first hand knowledge to share, please do. I will likely write a follow-up piece on ‘disaster public relations’.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Regular Contributor – Wedding Marketing Expert
The Knot B2B

Comments

  1. Excellent article, Andy. I agree with all points and hope that other venues and vendors step up to the plate and offer some assistance for the displaced brides and grooms.

  2. You say “A few phone calls later” Who did you call because they have my dress which I have paid $1,400.00 for and I can not get ahold of anyone at all! Any help would be appreciated. My dress was supposed to come in on June 29th.

  3. Molly,

    Thanks for your comment. My sources are confidential, but I can tell you they are second hand. In this case, meaning industry people I know, who have been in touch with staffers at the mansion, as recently as a few days ago.

    Your fiancee took the initiative to call me. I took his call about a half hour ago. I promised to do some follow-up on your behalf (and have made one call already) and will be in touch whether I have good news or no news.

    Andy

  4. Deacon,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I have been in touch with both the bride and groom and offered what information and assistance I can.

    One of my conclusions is that the Channel 3 news coverage merely accelerated the demise of Griffin, and my have left more couples ‘in the lurch’ as a result.

    I will keep my ear to the ground… and then some.

    Andy

  5. One thing that is not mentioned is why is it so difficult for a beautiful venue like this in an isolated part of town to get the proper licensing. According to what I heard, they had tried to do everything that was asked of them including putting in a commercial septic system and still could not get proper permits.

    This kind of red tape has only ended up hurting a lot of couples and the whole wedding community. After all they did weddings for 5 years without complaint, yes they were wrong to not get the proper licenses, but sometimes local government can be very unyielding in these things. I have friends in other parts of the country that put on weddings in an old 1920’s mansion in which they actually live on one of the floors, permitting is not so difficult in the East.

    Griffin did not want to shut down, but could not continue to fight a battle they could not win. I truly hope they will figure it out and if not re-open at least continue to place the weddings as they had been trying to do and contact brides to get them their dresses.

    Deb

  6. Deb,

    The challenges with ‘local government’ powers often seem incredibly irrational. Local zoning and other requirements can be more philosophical than anything else, at times, depending on the locale.

    You are absolutely right than in different parts of the country… in cities vs. incorporated areas vs. unincorporated areas, the rules and requirements can vary, radically.

    Having lived and worked events in San Francisco for 25 years, I can tell you that almost any mansion, private school facility, landmarks, city hall, etc., were available for event rental. The local government had a philosophical outlook that this was good for all concerned, and therefore, supported it. The only challenges were with noise ordinances… and those became more concise, over time (How and where they were measured).

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

    Andy

  7. Why are you defending a company that is booking weddings, taking people’s deposits and not being up front with them? We booked a wedding for 2013 on May 16!! After they had been closed down!

    They gladly took our $500 deposit. We had contact with them on June 13 as we owed them $3,100 and they told us where to mail the check. Thankfully, the envelope containing the check was returned as undeliverable.

    We have been trying to reach them since then to get them their deposit. Thankfully, again, My News 3 came out with this undercover investigation, or we wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.

    We were able to book our wedding at a different venue, but we have had not one word of communication from Griffin.

  8. I don’t see my post as defending Griffin Mansions. I see my post as providing facts, information, opinion and analysis from a neutral standpoint.

    I conclude that the major fault lies with Griffin Mansions; however, I also see the Health District as culpable, and I see My News 3 mostly as a catalyst for the closure, lessening the possibility of refunds or other assistance. My News 3 may have provided some service for the long-term, but not much of value for wedding couples, in the near term.

    Your anger is understandable. Were I in your position, I’d be mad-as-hell, too. I’d also feel fortunate to only have lost only $500 in the process. I feel confident that once the check for $3100 had been returned to you as undeliverable, you would have researched the situation without the need of any help from My News 3 (though it certainly sped up the process for you).

    Everything is relative, and in your circumstances, a 2013 wedding gives you enough lead time to recast your plans. There are other couples with much more immediate issues, both in terms of planning and money lost. That is not to say that a $500 loss and wasted time is not significant. It is, though, something that you can recover from.

    At first, it may sound coarse to say ‘you should feel fortunate, under these circumstances’. What happened to you shouldn’t happen to anyone. It’s stressful by any measure, but when you step back and look at the many victims of the Griffin closure, over time, you’ll come to see that you dodged a much more challenging set of issues than most others.

    Wishing you nothing but success and smooth sailing on your wedding.

    Warmest regards,

    Andy

  9. It’s an unfortunate situation for so many involved.

    We’re offering complimentary services to these displaced brides if any of them need assistance finding venues or vendors. Las Vegas has so many fantastic venues and extremely talented vendors; we’ll work with brides to find matches that fit them.

    If there are other ideas of ways for us to help, let us know.

    Rissa
    Scheme Events

  10. Rissa,

    Thanks for your sensitivity. And thanks to all of you at Scheme for your generosity.

    Andy

  11. Does anyone know where to get a dress last minute. My dress was supposed to come in on June 29th.

    They (The salon at Griffin Mansions) took my last payment on June 21 and didnt say a word. I already paid them $1400 of $1600 and have been not been able to locate the dress.

  12. Tiffany M. says:

    My fiance and I are currently looking for a new venue for our August 14th, 2012 wedding. I found out through a third party that Griffin Mansions are no longer doing business and have yet to be contacted by anyone regarding this horrible situation.

    We are out of thousands of dollars and with a month to go we are really scrambling to find any place to accommodate our 100 person guest list and living out of state makes it that much harder.

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated, thank you.

    Tiffany

  13. Hi Mruth,
    We’ve had some brides have last minute success at Saks Fifth Avenue or similar retailers (Neimans, Barneys, etc). You can also try Bella Bridesmaid off Eastern in Henderson. Jamie Johnson is the owner and may be able to help. Send me an email if those don’t work out and we’ll see what else we can do. rissa@schemeevents.com

    Tiffany,
    I know some venues have been willing to assit brides in your situation. Send me an email and I’ll reply so I can get some additional details and send you some recommendations.
    rissa@schemeevents.com

    Rissa
    Scheme Events

  14. Stephanie says:

    I was supposed to be having my wedding at Griffin Mansion on Oct of 2012. We only found out what was going on because of My News 3 and we only found out today.

    We have no idea what to do next since payments had been made, invitations sent, and outside vendors were already contracted. I heard last from them on June 21st telling me that we would be having a tasting on August 5th and then all of a sudden we lost contact and no emails or phone calls were ever returned.

    Stephanie

  15. I agree with most of your points. I do also agree with the “gotcha journalism” and how it will not help the people get money back, but I think it was something that needed to be done. Either way the money wouldn’t have been returned.

    My fiancee and I are out a few thousand but the only reason we found out what was going on is because of News 3. We have been trying to get in touch with them for weeks before the broadcast through emails, calls, and even stopping by but could not get in touch with anyone.

    Our situation is not as bad as others but to be out thousands and having to find another place to have our wedding this october isn’t exactly what we thought we would be doing now.

    We are angry but realistic about the situation.

    Ruben

  16. Ruben,

    Thanks for our comments. I think your outlook is spot-on.

    I attended a networking meeting of local Las Vegas wedding professionals and Griffin Mansions was topic #1. Wedding vendors are embarrassed by the atrocity at the mansion, and it has been costly to them, too.

    Mostly, though, they were concerned, about the plight of wedding couples such as you and your fiancee. Everyone has their thinking caps on, in a ‘something has to be done – state of mind’, but easy answers are going to be hard to find.

    We are concerned about the many out-of-state wedding couples who may well not no about the situation, yet. As you found, the problem becomes evident when emails bounce and the Griffin Mansion phone number isn’t accepting calls.

    I only wish I had something more concrete to tell you, today.

    Your outlook is pragmatic and that will serve you well. Here’s hoping the you and your fiancee will be able to get beyond this mess, sooner, rather than later.

    Andy Ebon
    The Wedding Marketing Blog

  17. Lindsay says:

    I am the Coordinator at Revere Golf Club and met with a couple today dealing with this closure.

    Along with many other venues, we are working with displaced brides and grooms to ensure they have a location for their event. Please feel free to reach out if you need help.

    If we don’t have the date available, we will direct you to someone who does.

    Lindsay Banko
    702-617-5707

  18. I too am another victim of this terrible situation. My wedding is Sunday, August 12th. I am also one of the unlucky out of state (Texas) brides. I found out about this drama from the minister that well wed us. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have known that Griffin has been shutdown. I can say, my story is similar to others so I won’t even go into details about their scheme to collect money as we can all assume what would come next.

    I have been forced to look for other venues. I have been lucky to get some wonderful help from Canyon Gate Country Club and Emerald at Queensridge. They both have been angel’s in my situation. Now to get to the dirty business…

    I just heard through the news that Griffin has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. All I know is that when a business files for Chapter 7, they must sell their assets and redistribute what is owed to creditors, myself, other brides, merchants, payroll, etc. The news reported that they did not file Chapter 7 correctly, However, when they do file, we as brides, cannot contact them due to US Bankruptcy Law. Once they do file for bankruptcy, they will send each creditor a letter. If you didn’t get a letter, you still have the right to get what is owed by filing a document through the court. This is all too confusing. If I left out anything, then please let me know as I am not an expert in Bankruptcy Law. I also am looking for an attorney that specializes in bankruptcy law and civil law. So…if anyone can recommend me to a great attorney, please let me know.

    I am out a significant amount of money. This drama has forced me time (MY OPPORTUNITY COST!), stress, and other UNNECESSARY SPENDING!

    If I’m missing anything, let me know. We as brides, merchants, employees, should all work together to meet ONE END GOAL! Getting resolution into this ridiculous situation.

    Linda

  19. Linda,

    So sad for your situation. Not much I can add to that sentiment.

    You have your facts right, concerning bankruptcy proceedings. As an observer, my concern is ‘How much money will be left after sale of assets and payment of taxes, mortgage obligations, and other items which precede the creditors (vendors, brides)? And, how long will the process take?’

    I attended a Las Vegas Wedding Network meeting, two nights ago, and Griffin Mansion was topic one on everybody’s mind. Wheels are turning to do what each individual business can. My concern, more generally, is that so many future clients (like yourself) haven’t yet found out about the business closure. It isn’t until people try to communicate with Griffin, and cannot, that the closure becomes evident.

    Thank you for referencing Canyon Gate and Emerald at Queensridge. It’s good to know which businesses, in particular, are doing their best to be of assistance.

    Hang in there,

    Andy Ebon
    The Wedding Marketing Blog

  20. The attorney that myself & a few other brides are using is Glenn Truitt. He’s local to Las Vegas & you can reach him at 877-897-9701 or http://www.truittlawgroup.com He’s great & has been nothing but helpful.

  21. I am also one of the victims of Griffin Mansions. My fiancé and I found out the same way as many other couples, the news. I was at Griffin Mansions on 6/17/12 and they told me they were holding an event that night.

    I have countless emails and voicemails from them that show how truly evil they are. They never planned on telling anyone about the health code violations. They would have continued taking our money as long as possible. Our money is long gone.

    My only hope is that this corporation is prosecuted for criminal charges and tax evasion. My fiancé and I have been forced to change our wedding date because of what has happened. I could list a huge amount of things that this has affected but that would be pointless.

    What I want to know if what is the city doing about this?

    Carol

  22. Carol,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yet another sad story… and the numbers are mounting.

    I have many of the same question you do… One minor point (and I’m not trying to be nitpicky)… Though it’s accepted practice to use Las Vegas as one’s city address, Griffin Mansions does not exist within the bound of the city. In fact, neither to strip hotels. They fall under the jurisdiction of Clark County.

    That aside, from a publicity standpoint, people like yourself (and many locals) don’t make that distinction. Bad publicity by ‘bad actors’ in the Greater Las Vegas area reflects on the entire wedding industry, here.

    I have my own personal concerns that the Health District completely overlooked this venue for five years.

    You can be certain that if I become aware of any official investigation or other details, it will be posted on this blog.

    Andy

  23. Hey Andy,

    My name is Brooke and I had my wedding set for September 2, 2012. I live in Seattle and my family lives in Europe. We actually just found out Friday about Griffin Mansion. Since I live out of state we found out by one of our guests coming across your website. We were actually out there on June 2, 2012 and Ashley our wedding coordinator took $10,000 from us for our wedding.

    Everyone is coming out from across the world for our wedding and at this point we have to re-plan the whole wedding as our guests have incurred lots of costs to book tickets and hotel rooms. We flew out to Las Vegas this weekend and had spoken with some places that are willing to help out Griffin brides. Can anyone recommend a good lawyer for people that are out of state?

    Brooke

  24. Hi Brooke,

    I am sorry that you are one of those unfortunate brides that booked with Griffin Mansions. We found out at the beginning of the month about the situation. Our wedding is Aug. 14th, so we were in panic mode. I can send you some information that we and other couples have been sharing back and forth if you want to provide me your email address. There’s lists of vendors and also attorneys who are familiar with this specific case. You might want to also contact the bride who set this mass email list up so you can receive the notices that we are getting. I can give you her email address as well, although I don’t feel comfortable putting her name out there for everyone to read. She has been very helpful with EVERYTHING related to this horrible situation.

    Tiffany

  25. Brooke, what is ur email address? The griffin brides have some info. We are in the same boat. I can send you some emails with more information from everyone.

  26. Hey Tiffany and Ruben!

    Thank you so much for any help! We actually re-booked our wedding (thankfully) and now are just basically licking our wounds. My email address is brooke.e.chamberlain@gmail.com

    I would love to contact the bride that set this up. That would be so helpful and also give me a piece of mind!

  27. Danielle says:

    I spoke to Kupperlin Law and they sent me this blog: http://www.griffincreditors.blogspot.com hopefully this can help out a lot of brides out there including myself. Please share with others who’s wedding dreams have been crushed.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Vegas wedding venue Griffin Mansions was shut down due to health code violations in May 2012, but the owners of the lavish estate continued booking weddings for dates through 2014 anyway, The [...]

  2. Wedding Scam: 53 Couples Lose Thousands Of Dollars In Wedding Con (VIDEO) « says:

    [...] Vegas wedding venue Griffin Mansions was shut down due to health code violations in May 2012, but the owners of the lavish estate continued booking weddings for dates through 2014 anyway, The [...]

  3. [...] Vegas wedding venue Griffin Mansions was shut down due to health code violations in May 2012, but the owners of the lavish estate continued booking weddings for dates through 2014 anyway, The [...]

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