Popular turnkey wedding venue The Assembly Room, located in The Foundry in Uptown’s Third Ward, abruptly closed last week, leaving brides and grooms scrambling to find new wedding venues.
Evan Roberts, one of the brides affected by the closure, posted about it in the Facebook group Charlotte Wedding Connection seeking recommendations for a new venue. Multiple planners commented saying they, too, had clients facing the same issue.
When CharlotteFive summited a public records request for information about possible city code violations at the venue, a Charlotte Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau official said the location was never approved as a place of assembly, just as one for business occupancy.
A bureau representative said that in 2014, the Charlotte Fire Department was made aware of a large event planned for the lobby area. At the time, the owners were notified that the location was not suitable or approved for events. That particular event was not allowed to occur.
Because of N.C. General Statutes, the building only has to be inspected every three years, so the next inspection took place in October 2018. During that inspection, the new owners mentioned the lobby area being used for wedding. They were told then to contact Mecklenburg County to obtain a change-of-use permit, otherwise the location could not be used for such large-scale events. In November 2018, the bureau said they advised all parties involved — the Foundry owners and The Assembly Room leasees — that they could not hold events in the space.
On Dec. 4, the bureau said the fire department, again, informed the owners no events were allowed to take place in the venue until the change of use was completed and any changes were made to the building to accommodate events.
Roberts, however, was allowed to book her wedding at The Assembly Room — after the fire department notified the owners multiple times of the issue. Roberts and her fiance, Mike Fulkerson, booked the space on Dec. 10, 2018, for their nuptials on Oct. 19. At the time of booking, Roberts told CharlotteFive no issues were raised about the size of their 100-person wedding in relation to the venue’s capacity. In fact, The Foundry’s website clearly states The Assembly Room can hold up to 150 people.
Because the couple is planning their Charlotte wedding while living in Florida, Roberts reached out to The Assembly Room on Jan. 23 to see if they could do a walkthrough with their wedding coordinator in February. Bethany Brown, The Assembly Room’s venue concierge, confirmed on Jan. 28 that they could come on Feb. 15, Roberts said.
Only a few days later, Roberts said her wedding coordinator found out about the venue’s closure and called her to let her know the bad news: The Assembly Room had been shut down on Jan. 31. Someone from The Assembly Room called Roberts on Feb. 1. “I didn’t catch her name,” Roberts said. “All she said was, ‘We found out that we’re closing. We’re closed, and your wedding is canceled.’”
Since then, Roberts has been trying to find a new location, but she hasn’t had any luck. “We have not been able to find anything yet,” she said. Not only is October an incredibly popular month for weddings in Charlotte, but Roberts and Fulkerson had also secured most of their other vendors when the venue closed. “The issue is we have our photographer, our D.J. and food. We’ve paid deposits on all of those and have the date set.”
Roberts said they booked the Tin Kitchen food truck for the wedding. If she cancels the food truck, she’ll lose her $1,000 deposit, but a lot of the venues still available at this time require onsite catering.
Groom-to-be Sean Clark-Weiss said in order to move to a new venue, he had to change his wedding date from Nov. 16 to Nov. 17 and cancel his original caterer. Although his caterer refunded his deposit and he’s thankful the date change wasn’t more of a shift, he said it was incredibly stressful to look for a new venue.
“They called my fiancee around 4:30 last Friday and said due to some city ordinances, that they wouldn’t be able to host events for any party bigger than 49 people,” he said. “We had a contract with them, so it all just seemed abrupt.” Clark-Weiss said he’s going to have 100 to 115 people at his wedding.
Wedding planner Kayla Goldstein, who owns Clockwork Events & Design, said the venue called her and her bride to let them know about the closure. When Goldstein followed up with the venue, a representative told her the city had shut them down due to fire code violations and that the owner of the Foundry building was not willing to bring it up to code to accommodate what The Assembly Room owners were hoping to do with the space.
Goldstein feels her situation is less dire. Her client doesn’t get married until Jan. 4, 2020, and she has been working with the people at The Assembly Room to find a new location for that wedding. They’ve been calling venues for them and coordinating meetings and walkthroughs. “I have no ill will toward them and neither does my client,” she said. “I’ve had a great working relationship with them, but I can understand from a bride’s perspective how this would be daunting.”
Roberts, Goldstein and Clark-Weiss all said The Assembly Room refunded the deposits they or their client put down to book the venue. “My thing is, you have all these brides who book dates,” Roberts said. “You have $3,000 from each of them. Why didn’t you take that $3,000 to fix what needed to be fixed?”
Roberts said she’s extremely disappointed about how everything has turned out. She and her fiance chose The Assembly Room because it was a low key place to get married. “We’re a pretty relaxed couple, and now we’re looking at venues that are formal, sit-down places,” she said, adding that they might look at Camp North End or McGill Rose Garden as other low-key alternatives.
Attempts to reach The Assembly Room were not successful. The venue’s website and Instagram have been taken down.