TROUBLESHOOTERS FOLLOW UP AN EAST WINDSOR BANQUET HALL THAT WENT BELLY UP. WHAT HAPPENED AT THE AUCTION OF THE BUSINESS TODAY AND WHAT VICTIMS WHO LOST THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS CAN EXPECT.
“People dream about their weddings since they’re 5 years old, and to have that happen is really unfortunate,” said Joel Illouz, whose family once owned La Renaissance banquet hall in East Windsor.
Dozens of brides had their dreams dashed as La Renaissance began drowning in debt last year. A bank auction first scheduled for February finally took place on October 26th, but drew no outside bidders.
“The only bidder was People’s United Bank, the first lien holder on the property,” said auctioneer Gus Constantine.
Bidding began at $1.7 million, down from an asking sale price of $3.9 million. The lack of buyers means the bank is taking a loss, and so are taxpayers. That’s because the former owners of La Renaissance still owe $1.3 million in an Economic Development loan from the Small Business Administration.
With no takers at the auction, it seems unlikely that any of the vendors or people who put deposits down for events will recoup their losses.
That includes couples like Jose Rivera and Maria Pappa. The Troubleshooters first spoke with the now-newlyweds back in February, after they told us they had lost $4,000 on deposits for their wedding reception.
“We get a call from Maria’s mom saying that a friend of hers saw an ad in the paper that said La Renaissance is in foreclosure and that it would be auctioned off,” said Jose at the time.
Since then, the auction was postponed three times. The building and the eight acres it stands on finally went on the auction block today.
“We had a lot of great memories when we started it. I just came here today to see what happened to it. It’s unfortunate to see how it ended. A lot of great memories here at La Renaissance,” said Illouz.
His family ran La Renaissance for more than two decades before selling it to the owners who are now in foreclosure. Illouz said he’s saddened to see what has happened.
“We saw some weddings of parents getting married and [their children] getting married. There’s a lot of history in this building,” he said.
The Attorney General’s Office told the Troubleshooters it is investigating 48 complaints against La Renaissance’s most recent owners.
We went to the home of one of the owners, Atulkumar Vachhani, to ask him if any of the people who lost their deposits would get their money back. A relative who answered the door told us he wasn’t home.
A judge will now rule on the fate of La Renaissance, and officials tell us it will likely stay in bank foreclosure until someone steps forward to buy it.