Owner of closed NJ caterer apologizes

February 7, 2012 9:05:56 PM PST
The owner of a South Jersey banquet hall that was suddenly shut down by the state wants to set the record straight.

One of the owners of Renaissance Caterers in Turnersville, Gloucester County told Action News he knows he has some explaining to do after the sudden closure of his business.

Hundreds of customers who put down hefty deposits of $500 and $1,000 were left without a place to have their wedding receptions and other events.

"I'm very sorry that this happened," owner Yogesh Darji said.

The state of New Jersey closed down the Turnersville catering service because of failure to pay taxes.

Darji says the business is also $3-million in debt with TD Bank and they were clearly in over their heads.

"We didn't know that was going to happen; we tried to sell the business," Darji said.

Darji says before the state closed the doors, he and the other owners were working on a deal to sell the place with its current bookings.

But now, that deal is in limbo since brides to be like Gina Marioni are now scrambling to find other places to hold their wedding receptions.

"Everything that you've planned, everything, and at this pint you're just ready to get married, now it's like, oh man, I have to plan all this over again when i was ready to just put my dress on," Marioni said.

It's not just brides who are hustling to find other halls for their special events. Just over two weeks ago Lisa Wehrman of Sewell signed a contract with Renaissance - and gave them a deposit of $500 - for a first Holy Communion party in May for her 8-year-old, Michelle.

"People are scrambling. That's the position I'm in now because we really want to have a party for her and make it a special day. Now we may have to do it another day," said Wehrman.

Caterers from all over the area are offering help, with some even posting their contact information to the front door at the Renaissance.

"We feel bad for any of the brides that may have lost their facility," said Jeff Sands of Mansion on Main Street. "If we can help you and we have the space available we'll certainly match the prices, make it work for you."

With her wedding just weeks away, Gina Marioni is now working with Paris Caterers of Blackwood, which was able to accommodate the 300 guests she's invited.

"So we're very thankful in that sense, that everybody has come together and been so accommodating and helpful," she said.

Darji's attorney Dan Hutchison says his distraught client wants to make it right.

"He doesn't sleep at night and his one mission is to see that the individuals who placed their trust in him and paid him deposit monies are refunded their money," Hutchison said.

The owner says he has $40,000d in deposits to refund to customers.

He also wants to help them find other places to have their events.