Many Manor East clients want deposits back

Former customers of an evicted Massapequa catering hall Former customers of an evicted Massapequa catering hall are left wondering whether they will get deposits back for events they had booked and how they will pay for rescheduling at a new site. (June 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Nearly two weeks after Manor East catering hall's eviction, its customers continue to struggle with planning or paying for their events at new venues, despite initial reassurances and offers of help.

Many former clients of the Massapequa caterer say they worry about how they can afford to book new events or pay for parties held on-the-fly after losing $1,500 to $4,000 in deposits to Manor East, which they were told could be returned.

"I have a brokenhearted daughter that we had to make a last-minute arrangement for, and I'm going way over budget and nobody's helping me," said Robbie Stechman of Bellmore.

Stechman had booked a bat mitzvah celebration for his daughter Amanda to be held at Manor East in October, and paid the caterer about $4,000 in deposits. Now, Stechman said he is going to friends and family for help with paying for a new venue, which could cost up to $7,300.

At a news conference two weeks ago, Rich Bivona, who identified himself as a Manor East spokesman, and who has been called an owner of the caterer in prior news articles, told clients he would transfer deposits to new catering venues. Since then, customers said, they have been unable to reach Bivona. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Court records indicate that 201 Jerusalem Ave. Massapequa LLC, which owned Manor East, has filed for bankruptcy four times since 2008.

Property records show the Manor East facility was sold in December in a foreclosure auction to a group of investors holding a mortgage on the property. A lawyer for the investors said Manor East continued operating despite knowing about the foreclosure. The property is currently for sale.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Many customers said they have already filed complaints with the Nassau County District Attorney's office regarding their deposits.

The news conference at which Bivona made his remarks was arranged by Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa), with Butch Yamali and Brian Rosenberg, two Long Island restaurant and catering executives who offered help from their network of caterer contacts. The two also ran a hotline for Manor East customers, but several callers said messages left there weren't returned.

Yamali said customers are only calling to ask for their deposits back, not to find new venues -- which is what the hotline was set up for. He added that he "110 percent regrets" getting mixed up in the situation.

"Everybody's screaming at us . . . we had nothing to do with it," he said. "We never promised their money back."

Saladino did not return a request for comment.

You also may be interested in: