Last Friday, DUMBO gastropub and popular wedding venue reBar suddenly closed amid talk of bankruptcy. Owner Jason Stevens disappeared into the night, leaving employees without checks for the last three weeks of work, and hundreds of couples without receptions for which they'd already paid. [Update: he was arrested today.] But thanks to the efforts of some former reBar staffers and local businesses, both weddings this weekend went off (mostly) without a hitch.
"The reality of what just happened, and what Jason Stevens did to us and all the other reBar couples and employees hit us only a couple of days later," Matteo Ruggiu told us. "He took our money, and we had to reconsider our honeymoon plans, but he didn't take away from us the wonderful memories of our wedding day, and the amazing support we received from our friends and families."
Ruggiu and his (now) wife Margaret Ting, who live in Crown Heights, lost $13.5K which they had paid up front to reBar last January for their wedding, which was scheduled to take place this past Sunday there. They had to pay $15.5K to make sure it could happen at a new venue (with food and drinks), along with gratuity, photobooth and a photographer (all of which was part of their original all-inclusive wedding package at reBar). Riggiu described what the past few days have been like for them:
On the evening of Thursday May 8th we went to reBar to leave all our stuff for the wedding (favors, a keg of beer specifically brewed for us by some friends; framed pictures of Margaret and me, etc...), and to close the bill. We gave Katherine Cassell, our wedding coordinator at reBar, a check for $907.29, and then went home. Everything seemed fine up to that point. I even exchanged emails with Jason Stevens earlier during the week, and spoke directly with him on the phone regarding the final check on Wednesday.
On Friday May 9 at noon, two days before the wedding, Katherine Cassell called Margaret and told her about the email Jason Stevens sent her and other staff at reBar regarding reBar being closed and bankrupt. This was definitely something we did not see coming. At that point families and friends had already arrived in NYC for our wedding; we had people from Europe, California, Hawaii, Japan, Taiwan, etc... We knew the wedding was still going to happen, even if we had to get married in the street.
Katherine kept working with us relentlessly: she gave us names of places that would still be able to host our wedding on Sunday, and places who could cater the food. In the end we contacted one of the venues we originally considered for the wedding. Luckily they had availability for Sunday evening, so that same afternoon (Friday) we went there, left a deposit signed a contract, and then went to reBar where Katherine was able to help us recover all our wedding-related things we brought to reBar just the day before. We were also able to cancel the check for $907.29 that we gave to reBar the day before.
When we met outside reBar Friday evening Katherine told us that she still wanted to volunteer for our wedding, and do all she could to help us out. She added that Ben Carlin, the reBar DJ assigned to our wedding, also wanted to volunteer. The effort that Katherine and Ben put in helping us out was instrumental in allowing our wedding to happen, and in helping us throw a fantastic party for all our guests. I cannot thank Katherine and Ben enough for all they have done for us.
We then brought all our things to the new venue. At that point, just a few hours after getting the news about reBar being closed, we knew we would be able to still get married on Sunday, and have a party for all our guests.
We still had our wedding on the day originally planned, at the time originally planned; just at a different venue. The wedding took place outdoors, and we were blessed with wonderful weather that day. Perhaps because of what just happened, there was an incredible energy that day. We had a hell of a party, and all our guests told us that it did not feel like a wedding we organized in just two days. I'm still amazed we managed to have a wedding at all, let alone such a wonderful party.
Tyler Lindsay (who wants you to know you can contact him at email@example.com for any business inquiries), the former reBar events director, told us what happened after he found out about Stevens shutting down the restaurant so suddenly:
Obviously, I was shocked when I found out on Friday morning that reBar had closed. The first call I made—after I called my mom, of course—was to Viva Max Kaley, a friend and fellow wedding planner. She enlisted other planners to help develop that shared Google spreadsheet that lists all of the venues and vendors who have reached out with discounts and offers to help. Katherine and I spent all day Friday not only talking to couples who came to reBar, but we worked non-stop to help the couples who had their weddings this past weekend.
Saturday's wedding was at No. 7 Restaurant. The couple booked the restaurant on Friday evening, so with less than 24 hours, a wonderful vegan-friendly menu was developed and their restaurant staff enthusiastically worked overtime to make it all happen. DJ Ben Carlin—the reBar DJ coordinator—came with his turntables and kept the guests dancing, and I was there to coordinate their ceremony and timeline and handle all of their decor details.
Ben and I are on board for a few upcoming weddings, too. You know, everyone is emailing and calling and complimenting us about what we're doing—especial now that Katherine and I are out of jobs—but, for me, I just feel like it's the right thing to do. Getting married is one of life's biggest milestones. Most brides have been dreaming about their wedding day since they were little girls. I had already been working closely with many of them before this happened and they've all been so fun, gracious and excited. I just don't have it in my heart to leave them stranded.
The couple who got married on Saturday, Sharon and Justin (they asked that their last names not be used), also were greatly appreciative of all the efforts they put in:
My husband Justin and I were planning to get married this past Saturday night at reBar. Obviously there was a change of plans but we did indeed get married and we had an absolutely beautiful and unforgettable wedding.
We want to publicly acknowledge the incredible people who worked tirelessly to make sure that we were still able to have a wedding on Saturday night.
Our ceremony and reception took place at No. 7 restaurant in Fort Greene. Manager Katherine Pangaro reached out to one of the groomsmen after seeing his comment on Gothamist and said that they would be more than happy to help us out and host our wedding. As soon as we walked into No. 7 it just felt right—it is a beautiful space and we were immediately struck by the staff's overwhelming positive energy and eagerness to make sure everything worked out. We sat down with Katherine and head chef Tyler Kord who quickly and thoughtfully put together a menu with us. They even made sure that we had similar desserts that we were going to have at reBar and recreated our signature drinks. The entire staff was so warm and friendly and enthusiastic and it is truly unbelievable what they pulled off in less than 24 hours.
From the moment we started planning our wedding at reBar, the staff had been fantastic, but nothing could have prepared us for the outpouring of support from them once reBar closed. They worked non-stop to make sure that we would still have our wedding even though they were just as blindsided as we were and were dealing with the reality that they were all out of a job. Orlando St. Preux was able to get the decorations and other personal belongings that we had dropped off at reBar out of the building and brought them over to No. 7 on Friday night. Florist Lasma Nelson did all of the beautiful flower arrangements and the bridal bouquet and brought them to No. 7. DJ Ben Carlin did a walk-through at No. 7 Friday night to get a feel of the space and to make sure that he brought all of the necessary equipment. He sent us an email late Friday to assure us that "the show will go on"—and it did. He totally rocked the house and got everybody up on the dance floor.
The unsung hero of the night was our wedding coordinator from reBar, Tyler Lindsay. He was 100% committed to working our wedding no matter where it turned out to be. He adapted all of our decorations for the space, figured out how the space would be laid out, where the ceremony would take place, created an aisle, basically made sure that the night would go off without a hitch and be completely seamless. If there were people who were unaware that we had changed venues at the last moment, they would not have been able to tell—it went that smoothly. He is so selfless and generous and we will never forget everything that he did for us.
All of these people worked around the clock and put their heart and soul into making our wedding happen and we just want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts. It was so moving to see the overwhelming support and love and it made our wedding all the more special.
We wish them and all of the other couples and employees who have been affected by the sudden closing of reBar the best of luck.
Jason Stevens (screenshot via)
Katherine Cassell, the aforementioned former Special Events Coordinator, reflected on the weekend as well:
The past few days have been extremely stressful and difficult, to say the least. Neither Tyler nor I know what we are going to do next in terms of employment, which is probably the most stressful part. Nevertheless, we are obviously still trying to help our couples fix what Jason destroyed. Each and every one of these couples deserve a wedding. They had put their trust in Jason and reBar- they had put their trust in us. I know it may sound cheesy or cliche, but we can't just abandon them the way that Jason abandoned us. We have morals.
As for this past weekend, my wedding couple was able to find a venue, Bacchus Bistro in Boerum Hill, which hosted their wedding ceremony and reception. DJ Ben, former DJ Coordinator for reBar, offered his service as well so that the couple could have the closest party to what they had originally planned. It went well and I'm so glad that the couple was able to enjoy themselves amidst all of this chaos. At the end of the evening the couple was in tears when thanking us and it reminded me why I love my job to begin with.
Everyone has been extremely supportive, whether it be of the brides and grooms, the staff at rebar, or of myself and Tyler. It has not gone unnoticed and it certainly has made things a lot easier emotionally. I have no idea what will happen next but for now I will continue to help these couples any way that I can and keep trucking on.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA's office told us earlier this week that they are looking at reBar's abrupt closure, which owner Jason Stevens claimed was due to bankruptcy in emails to staff. DNAInfo also reported that the Brooklyn DA has fielded a litany of complaints by disgruntled customers dating back to 2013, and already had started probing the businesses. Some ex-employees told us that he made off with around $150,000 in wedding deposit checks and $27,000 in cash. Stevens had been audited by the IRS last year, and those former staffers suggest he owed $2.5-3 million in unpaid sales tax.
Steve Obeng, whose wedding was planned to take place at reBar in August, says that affected couples interested in pursuing a class action lawsuit should contact Christian (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, he suggests couples should:
1. Contact the Action Center of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office (718 250 2340) and inform them of the situation. 2. Contact the Brooklyn Attorney General's office and inform them of the situation (718 722 3949) 3. File a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Frauds as well as with Consumer Affairs
All employees should file a complaint with the Labor Fraud Unit at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office (718 250 3770)