Heartbroken couples due to wed at the Strathearn Hotel in Kirkcaldy, which mysteriously closed last weekend, have been told they might get some of their money back in due course “if they’re lucky”.
The popular Victorian venue on Wishart Place shut on Sunday, with leaseholders Stephen Stewart and Tina Syme giving shocked staff just a few hours’ notice.
Despite this, a statement was posted on the hotel’s Facebook page which read: “We are closed only to carry out a refurbishment and will be reopening in a few weeks.”
This turned out to be a smokescreen, however, with hotel owners Bruce Taverns later contacting couples to tell them that their weddings had been cancelled, prompting a meeting between owners, leaseholders and customers.
Lochore couple Sabrina Roberts and Kevin Mercer were “absolutely devastated” to find out through social media their wedding venue had closed down.
They were looking forward to celebrating their big day in October, along with their six children and extended family and friends, but now face the difficult task of trying to find another venue.’We just feel devastated’Fighting back tears, Sabrina said: “We’ve been told we might get some back but, then again, we might not. We just feel devastated and really let down as we were just in a few weeks ago, paying another instalment, and nothing was said at that time.
“The first we heard about it shutting was through Facebook and we tried to get in touch with leaseholders Stephen Stewart and Tina Syme to no avail.
“The Strathearn was everything we dreamed of for our wedding, with the added bonus of having good disabled access, which suited us as we have a lot of family members in wheelchairs.
“It was also affordable, which was good as I am disabled and Kevin is my carer so we don’t have a wage coming in as such.”
Sabrina, 36, suffers from a neurological condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a progressive illness that damages the peripheral nerves. One of her sons also suffers from CMT and needs regular hospital visits.
“We saved up for a long time for this wedding and have been paying it up a bit at a time. We’d waited 12 years for the perfect time and the perfect venue and we thought we’d found it.
“Now to think we stand to lose hundreds of pounds and might not be able to get married after all is just devastating.”
Another couple due to get married at the venue in seven weeks, Gregor Wright, 37 and Maggie Downie, 35, from Kirkcaldy, said they felt “extremely let down and upset” by the leaseholders.
A meeting took place on the premises on Friday between the owners, the leaseholders and customers who had paid wedding deposits. Some customers left with their deposits fully returned, others were told they “might” get their money back in the next few months.
Sabrina said: “Stephen and Tina showed up and kept saying they were sorry but sorry won’t bring our wedding dreams back or our money, will it?”
Stephen Stewart and Tina Syme took over the running of the Strathearn Hotel in April 2014.
In March this year they posted a statement on Facebook saying it had been a “roller coaster experience” and claimed some former members of staff were trying to “tarnish” their reputation.
The statement read: “Many have claimed we have closed or are closing our doors in order to stop new business coming in. Unfortunately this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“People claim you have closed, people stop coming, no money in to keep it going, place will close. So I would like to thank all those people who do not believe the nasty rumours and who continue to use us.”
However, the hotel’s head chef, Michael Cummins, who has found himself out of a job, told The Courier he had worked for the leaseholders since December 2014 and that he had never been paid a “proper” wage.
“I’m due £2,330 in wages since December. Every time I asked for my money, they would tell me they didn’t have it but I would get it and would give me £100 here and there, which wasn’t ideal but I had to just accept it as I have a wife and four children, one of whom is only eight months and quite ill so I need to take him to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh regularly.
“I’m angry as I am the head chef yet they didn’t think to inform me of what was happening directly. Instead, I had to find out from another member of staff and through Facebook and when I contacted Stephen and Tina, they didn’t even have the courtesy to call me back.
“I already do a bit of bouncing work but it doesn’t pay that well so it looks like I’ll have to start job hunting.
“The way the staff have been treated is disgraceful, as well as the Strathearn’s customers.”