After a Fishtown wedding venue shut down and left couples out thousands of dollars weeks before their I-dos, some of those brides- and grooms-to-be were able to quickly secure a new space.
Others weren't so lucky. But that could change, thanks to an outpouring of support since their stories became public this week.
Several businesses and organizations have offered free or discounted wedding services to couples who booked weddings — in some cases, years ago — at the Skybox Event Center but now can no longer hold them there due to an AWOL owner who operated for years without the proper license.
Developer Bart Blatstein announced Thursday he's opening up the Mansion Ballroom at the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City free of charge to any impacted couples (though, it's noted they must still secure their own catering). The Showboat, a former casino, reopened in 2016 as a non-gaming hotel under the ownership of Blatstein, the CEO of Tower Investments whose other projects include Schmidt's Commons in Northern Liberties and Riverview Plaza in South Philadelphia.
A wedding reception in the Mansion Ballroom averages about $20,000, depending on the number of guests and when the event takes place, a spokeswoman said. In a statement, Blatstein said he was "torn apart" reading about the couples who had planned their weddings, only to find out weeks before that they need to find a new venue.
"In a time as hectic as coordinating a wedding," he said, "the last news a bride wants to hear is that the planned reception venue is no longer open, especially without any forewarning."
Skybox Event Center, a now-former tenant at 2424 E. York St., operated for years as a space for weddings, parties, and banquets, but canceled several weddings after a lengthy battle involving the owner, the neighborhood, and city officials. Skybox owner Chris Voz has gone dark, leaving one couple out $12,000 just two weeks before their wedding and two others down $3,000. Property owner Scott Janzen said Voz was in default on his lease, which he plans to terminate.
John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, is also offering up special pricing and space to any out-of-luck couple. While the Philadelphia Police Home Association, which operates events out of the FOP Lodge in Northeast Philadelphia, hasn't yet nailed down what that discount might be, the group said it's willing to work with couples who lost money booking with Skybox. They're making available the Heroes Ballroom at the lodge, which can accommodate about 350 people.
"It kind of hit home here," McNesby said. "This is a stressful time for them, and people save their whole lives for this stuff. We want to help out and work around that process to alleviate some of the financial strain."