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Gazette Premium Content Craftwood's closing shatters dreams for brides and grooms — and owner

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By Ned Hunter Updated: March 14, 2014 at 12:15 am

The weddings were planned.

Deposits - sometimes full payments - were made in advance.

But the sudden closing of the Craftwood Inn this week has left future brides and grooms scrambling to find other wedding locations and a way to pay for a "second" wedding, and contemplating whether to file lawsuits in an attempt to reclaim their money.

"He took my money, and he took my wedding from me," bride-to-be Rachel DeStefano, said about Craftwood Inn owner David Symonds, who closed his Manitou Springs restaurant on Sunday.

As similar tales unfold from other brides and grooms left in the lurch, Symonds said in an email to The Gazette that he doesn't have the money to reimburse them. He said the inn is up for short-sale.

"We have secured debt of over $1.5 million," he wrote. "There will be no extra money when a short-sale happens."

His email also stated that while his contracts with clients do not require the return of deposits that secure event dates, "with the ones that we have taken money over and above their original deposit, we are looking for ways to do something, but at this point, we are still struggling through the closure and cannot determine what that might be."

Symonds said he's going through the worst time of his life. He blamed the closing of his restaurant on "the repeated summer natural disasters (that) have killed our sales." He said January's freezing temperatures frequently forced the restaurant to close early because "we had ZERO reservations," and the situation didn't improve in the ensuing weeks.

With "our bank account already in the red, and with no hope in site (sic) that would change, we had to stop the bleeding," he wrote.

He said he had not filed for bankruptcy protection, but is considering it. He said he invested $400,000 to buy the Craftwood Inn; a 2013 appraisal valued it at $1.35 million.

"We have lost our dream and disappointed many people, not only the ones that have functions, but the 20 people that counted on us to feed their families," Symonds wrote. " I hope that you or anyone else will never experience this."

While the closing of the Craftwood has not destroyed the dreams of those who scheduled weddings at the inn, it has tarnished them.

DeStefano and her fiancee Andrew Heinzelman, were scheduled to be married at the Craftwood on June 1. Heinzelman said he wrote Symonds a check on June 13 for $6,000. DeStefano said she and her future mother-in-law spoke with Symonds at the Craftwood Inn on Wednesday.

"He said, 'I can guarantee you are not getting your money back, and you can stand in line with all the other people I owe money to,'" DeStefano said.

Now the couple is considering suing in hopes of reclaiming at least part of the money.

"We are talking to some people, and seeing what we can do," Heinzelman said.

Brian Robinson, 35 was scheduled to marry Saskia Kesners, 30, at the Craftwood this spring. He paid $6,655 to the Craftwood Inn in two payments in May and September 2013, including a $500 deposit. The Craftwood's closing has left family members wondering if they should book plane tickets, hotel rooms and ask for vacation days from work to attend the wedding.

"We were really proud of the fact that we had a two-year long engagement to save the money to have the kind of wedding we wanted to have," Kesners said.

He seems less likely to want to take legal action.

"I don't want our wedding day to be associated with this, and me having to pursue small claims or a lawyer," Robinson said. "I want our wedding to be about our wedding, and it is not turning into that."

Several Pikes Peak area events centers, inns and meeting places have stepped up to help the stranded brides and grooms. Red Crags Bed & Breakfast in Manitou, for example, has been working with couples to offer them services and lodging for guests at discounted rates.

"This town has been hit by enough stuff the last couple of years, and the last thing you want to see is them get hurt because of something out of their control," said innkeeper Susan Murray.

In the end, the Craftwood's closing has killed or damaged the dreams of everyone involved.

"Owning my own restaurant was my dream for decades," Symonds wrote in his e-mail. "We moved to Colorado to buy the Craftwood Inn in 2003. It was a dream come true that turned into this nightmare."

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Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275

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