Wedding caterer pulls disappearing act before big day
Posted June 5, 2013
Weddings are stressful.
When you finally get to the reception, it should be smooth sailing. But that hasn't been the case for multiple couples who contacted 5 On Your Side's Monica Laliberte.
They all hired a caterer who, at one time, appeared to have a good reputation. Sean Lyons owns Extravagant Fare Catering in Durham. Vendors and reception sites even recommended him.
Lexi and Joey Swoager hired him to cater their May wedding at the old Durham Athletic Park.
“They'd never had a wedding there, of course, other than the one in the movie," Lexi's mom, Lynn Campbell, said, referring to the movie "Bull Durham."
She says when they hired Sean Lyons, they gave him a $2,600 downpayment. Just two weeks before the wedding, they met at the ballpark to finalize the plans.
"He's looking me in the eyes and saying,`Oh, yes we're going to do this and that.' And he knew that day he wasn't doing it," Campbell said.
That same day, Lyons wanted the balance, another $3,000. Campbell says he would only accept cash or a check.
"It wasn't 10 minutes that he was at the bank and cashed the check," she recalled. "We kind laughed about that and thought that was a little odd that it was like... bam!"
They haven't heard from Lyons since.
Deb Barnett says she paid Lyons $2,600 for her May wedding; he never showed up.
Christina Carnes says she put down $3,000 for her July wedding and hasn't been able to get ahold of Lyons.
Becka Fortune says she gave him an $800 deposit for her upcoming wedding, and hasn't heard anything since March.
It adds up to at least $12,000 paid to Lyons, whose phone is disconnected.
5 On Your Side went to his business address, which is also his home. No one answered.
And nothing's happening at the Bull City Diner, a restaurant Lyons was reportedly planning to open in Durham. It's also where he held tastings.
Looking inside the windows of the restaurant, it appears that it’s getting ready to open for business. But on the door, there are multiple notices from the landlord about overdue rent of more than $7,400.
Deb Barnett and Lynn Campbell scrambled and found another caterer. In the end, Campbell’s daughter thought the wedding was a homerun.
But Campbell still has burning questions for Lyons.
“Why would you take the rest of the money if you knew at that point in time, why wouldn't you just have said, `Hey, I can't do this' and stop it then and give people an opportunity to make other plans?"
Campbell paid the initial $2,600 deposit with a credit card. She was able to dispute the charge, but is still out $3,000.
Fortune and Barnett also paid with a credit card and disputed the charges.
That's an important takeaway – paying with a credit card can give you recourse when there’s a problem.