Weddings in limbo after Apopka evicts Highland Manor for not paying rent

This is the Headline News in the Wedding Industry last night at 10:29pm.  Read the article as written by the Orlando Sentinel.

Highland Manor

Brides who booked an Apopka wedding venue don’t know what to do now that the business, known as Highland Manor, has been evicted from the landmark Victorian house where it also ran a restaurant.

The city of Apopka, which owns the historic building at U.S. Highway 441 and State Road 436, assumed control of the property this week.

“They’ve been in arrears on their rent payments for months,” Richard Anderson, the city’s chief administrator, said Wednesday. “It was just time to end it.”

Highland Manor had events, including dozens of weddings, booked through December 2012. Anderson said people with scheduled events should contact the city, which will try to help organize at least some weddings for which large deposits have already been paid. But he also suggested that people who used a credit card to place a deposit dispute the charge; the city, he said, can provide documentation of Highland Manor’s closure.

Brides and their families complained Wednesday that they could not reach anyone at Highland Manor.

“This is so tough,” said Molly Kenney of Longwood, who paid a $1,500 deposit for her daughter’s October wedding. “We’re sending out invitations. I can’t really wait around.”

Kenney said that, when the family last month visited Highland Manor for a pre-wedding taste test of the food, they were told the restaurant that operated inside part of the house, Arrowsmith’s, had closed. Still, the family was told their reception would go on because Highland Manor would continue to host events.

Valerie Miller booked a wedding there for next March. After hearing Arrowsmith’s had gone out of business, she stopped by the property Tuesday. “There were cops there,” she said. “I guess there were a lot of angry brides going up there. When I went up there, there was a previous worker and a sheriff. They said … the doors were closed and good luck.”

Miller said she was shocked. “There are probably plenty of brides out there who have weddings planned and don’t even know,” she said. “They didn’t call us and tell us.”

Miller had chosen Highland Manor because of its scenic setting.

“I had my heart set on that place,” the 32-year-old Apopka resident said. “The ballroom was absolutely beautiful. They’ve totally renovated the outside of it. I just don’t understand how they closed.”

The house, built in 1903, was moved from downtown Apopka to its current location in the 1980s. Clay and Neil Townsend bought the building and opened Townsend’s Plantation in 1987. That restaurant closed in 1997, and the place opened only occasionally for banquets and as a haunted house on Halloween.

Then, for a time, it was a restaurant known as the Captain and the Cowboy, but the city ended up evicting that business — and brides who had reserved the property found themselves scrambling then to make new plans.

In 2008, there was another renovation and a new name: Highland Manor. The business hosted both wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as other events. The new owners said at the time they planned to eventually open a Victorian-style inn on the property and transform the site into a “destination resort.”

Richard Wilhelm, one of Highland Manor’s owners, said Wednesday he has had health problems and “I have no idea what’s going on out there.” He said people who have booked events should contact him by phone at 321-576-3294, though at least several people who tried that number Wednesday to ask about their deposits said they could not reach him. or 407-420-5240; follow Sandra on Twitter @dineshopwrite

The issue with this closing is do you trust that your wedding will be taken care of when the people who promised you something and had you pay deposits and sign contracts are no longer there? 


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