February 27, 2013
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today that he has obtained a judgment for more than $130,000 against Ryan Ronney Crowell and West Bottoms Hospitality, LLC, for failing to provide wedding services or refunds to 73 couples. The judgment requires the Kansas City business and its owner to pay $43,463.80 in restitution as well as $87,346.38 in penalties and fees for violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
Koster filed suit against West Bottoms Hospitality and Crowell last February. Following the trial in January, Jackson County Circuit Judge David M. Byrn found that the defendants contracted with 73 couples from at least September 2010 through April 2011 to rent out the historic Stowe Building for wedding ceremonies and to provide related services, including photography. Those services were never provided.
Crowell promised the couples the Stowe Building would be renovated in time for scheduled weddings and receptions, the first of which was to take place on April 10, 2011. Despite these promises, Crowell failed to apply for the required construction permits. Crowell also failed to take steps necessary to get the 100-year-old warehouse up to code to hold events as planned: the building was not wheelchair accessible, the only passenger elevator was inoperable, and the fire escape did not even reach the ground. The defendants did not inform their consumers of the permitting issues. Kansas City stopped renovations due to permit deficiencies, and ultimately canceled all 73 events. The first wedding was set to take place less than a week following the cancellation. The defendants never refunded the consumers the $43,463.80 in collected deposits and other payments. Couples were left scrambling to find other venues and wedding services.
Along with the order to pay $130,810.18, the defendants are also permanently enjoined from “taking payment for and/or providing event services in the state of Missouri, including, but not limited to wedding venue and/or reception services.”
“The actions of Mr. Crowell and his business not only cost many Kansas City area brides and grooms their money, but also the expense and stress of making new plans,” Koster said. “His actions marred the wedding days of 73 couples. I am pleased the Missouri Attorney General’s Office was able to step in to protect consumers and stop this scam.”
The Attorney General’s Office noted the assistance of the Kansas City Department of City Planning and Development in prosecuting the case.