Bankrupt wedding chapel leaves brides-to-be in lurch

Bankrupt wedding chapel leaves brides-to-be in lurch

Credit: Viewer photo

The Empress Palace wedding chapel in Woodland, Wash.

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by By WAYNE HAVRELLY, kgw.com

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:34 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 14 at 1:06 PM

WOODLAND, Wash. -- An upscale wedding venue has filed for bankruptcy protection but customers wonder why no one is protecting them. Now those customers want answers from the wedding facility's owners.

Tatum Lubber's wedding was just three weeks away when the Empress Palace in Woodland, Wash., suddenly closed its doors last week, taking her $6,000.

KGW first reported this story last Wednesday; since then, several other brides have come forward with similar stories. Just before filing bankruptcy for their Empress Palace business, Rob and Becky Neuschwander recently founded a church in Kalama.

The couple denied requests for an interview Sunday morning when KGW arrived at Riverview Community Church, before scheduled services.

Records show the Neuschwanders paid $600,000 for the 13,000-square-foot Empress Palace, a Woodland mansion, in 2000.

Reports from 2003 indicate they spent another $1 million during a renovation that included recreation of a Michelangelo painting on the ceiling of the foyer.

Last week, customers received a short e-mail from the Empress Palace that read, in part:

"... Because of events and circumstances beyond our control, including the current economic crisis, record cancellations and the FDIC seizure of their bank ... the Empress Palace is seeking bankruptcy protection."

But at least one of the affected brides-to-be found assistance from the community.

Lubber said several businesses offered to help recreate her approaching wedding after first learning of the Empress Palace's closure and unwillingness to assist its customers. The Vancouver Hilton stepped forward to help Lubber plan her wedding in their facilities.

"They are bending over backwards helping with ceremony and reception and working with my parents' budget and what they can afford right now," Lubber said."They're really trying to help in any way they can and we greatly appreciate it."

Lubber said she had received e-mails from other brides in the same situation.At least three of the victims are now being helped by the Vancouver Hilton.

The brides are deeply touched that so many total strangers have stepped up to help after hearing about their situation.

Even so, they would still like to hear what happened to their money from Rob and Becky Neuschwander.

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