ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – To its clients’ shock, Romanza Falls was suddenly shut down last week, but KRQE News 13 has learned the owner of that Albuquerque wedding venue has done something like this before.
“I just had my mouth open, tears, goosebumps, knots in my stomach thinking this couldn’t be real,” said Brandi Ortiz, a bride supposed to get married at Romanza Falls on September 29.
Ortiz found out her wedding venue, which she’d already paid $3,700 for, was shut down on Labor Day. She did not receive any notice from the company.
“If I would’ve never seen the news, I would’ve went to the venue thinking we’re going to have a wedding and the doors would’ve been closed,” said Ortiz.
The Office of the Attorney General in New Mexico says anyone who gave money to Romanza Falls and did not get to hold an event there, needs to call their Consumer Protection Division and file complaints immediately at 505-717-3500.
A similar situation happened three years ago in Phoenix, Arizona.
“They just took the money and ran. They didn’t care,” said Jessica Vallarta’s daughter, who was supposed to celebrate her Quinceanera at an event venue in Phoenix.
The venue was called “Royal Gardens Event Center” and it had two locations in the Phoenix area. It, too, was suddenly shut down by the City of Phoenix.
“I’m angry. I’m mad,” said Vallarta.
The Ortiz family and the Vallartas worked with a man named Moroni Cabrera, who ran both Romanza Falls and Royal Gardens.
“If I could see him right now, I would say he’s an awful, awful person and we thought we had our perfect venue,” said Ortiz.
KRQE News 13 repeatedly called Cabrera but none of our calls were returned.
The Vallartas posted a review trying to warn people about Cabrera on a popular wedding website called TheKnot. In part, the review says: “**Do not book from them**. They are scam artist and have scammed many people including myself in Arizona. Moroni promises all will be taken care of until you sign and pay.”Read their full post here.
The Vallartas lost $11,000 that they had paid to the company.
Royal Gardens was shut down by the city because the owners were kicked out by the landlord for failing to bring the building up to fire safety code. Romanzo Falls was shut down because they failed to comply with the City of Albuquerque’s Health Code.
“We actually learned about Romanza Falls last spring. A complaint said people in a wedding party had become ill after the wedding,” said Mark DiMenna, the Deputy Director of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department.
When the department began investigating the complaint, they discovered Romanza Falls had never been in possession of a food handling permit with the city. Meaning, they were never supposed to be serving food.
DiMenna says the city worked to keep Romanza Falls open by putting them on a path to getting an official permit by giving them a “limited permit.”
“That limited permit didn’t allow them to prepare any food on site but it would allow a caterer to bring in food,” said DiMenna.
However, DiMenna says management at Romanza Falls continually failed to follow the guidelines given to them by the city.
“They weren’t letting us know about upcoming events. They weren’t holding back food that was served at the event,” said DiMenna.
DiMenna says the city also started to get more complaints about unsafe food practices at Romanza Falls.
“That’s when we needed to suspend the permit indefinitely,” said DiMenna.
Now, for Romanza Falls to reopen they’ll have to complete a long list of requirements, the first being a Compliance Hearing with the City of Albuquerque, which is scheduled for September 14.
DiMenna says this process will likely take months. He does not expect it to reopen in 2017.