The surprise closing of Rebar, a bar, restaurant, and event space on Front Street in Dumbo, has sparked former employees, scorned customers, and neighboring venues to band together to help save the dozens of weddings booked at the defunct party palace for the next two years.
Rebar employees came in to work on Friday expecting a normal day, but found a note on the door saying the joint was shuttered. A two line e–mail from Jason Stevens, Rebar’s owner, accompanied the note, but the message did not provide any further information about what is happening or why, nor did it make any mention of reimbursing the couples who have booked the space for weddings through 2016.
Borough businesses rallied to aid the spurned couples. At 1 Knickerbocker, a bar and restaurant in Williamsburg, one staffer recalled booking his own wedding not too long ago and said he shudders to think about how the stranded couples must be feeling.
“I remember going through all the different hassles and experiences of planning a wedding,” said co-owner Jesse Levitt. “I feel really terrible for these people.”
Levitt said his restaurant can host a party of 125 in a pinch, and most of the events it has booked right now are for the end of the summer and later. He is hoping to help fill some of the immediate void left behind by Rebar’s closing by offering a 25-percent discount for anyone trying to re-book their nuptials in a hurry.
“We happen to be in a position where we can help a little,” he said.
Supporters also started an online fund-raiser that hopes to raise $5,000 for each of the 18 couples with weddings booked over the next couple of months. They had raised $1,600 by Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s nice to see the positive aspects of humanity,” said Victoria Friedrich, a public school teacher who had a Feb. 2015 wedding booked at Rebar, and paid $20,000 for it up front. “But the financial loss is devastating.”
Rebar’s owner Jason Stevens owes the government millions of dollars in back taxes, the news website Gothamist reported, citing former employees of the venue as sources. It is also unclear if Stevens has actually filed for bankruptcy, as suggested by the signs he posted on Rebar’s windows Friday morning.
If Stevens really did file, it could limit the legal recourses available to the now not-so-happy couples. Calls to Stevens and Rebar were not returned, but the district attorney’s office said it was aware of the situation and is looking into any impropriety.