Deposits are finally being returned to some who were stiffed by the three men running La Grange Inn in West Islip, but others are still anxiously awaiting their money.
La Grange, which dates to the 1750s, was being leased by Dennis Garren, Scott DiDonna and David Rousso when the trio suddenly shut the catering hall and restaurant's doors in November. The men sent a terse letter to patrons who had scheduled events, telling them that "due to circumstances beyond our control" La Grange would close.
But the letter made no mention of returning the thousands of dollars in deposits the men had taken for events ranging from company parties to wedding receptions. By December, some deposits had been returned, but other clients were left hanging and filed complaints with Suffolk's Consumer Affairs department.
Cliff Coleman, acting director of the department, said his office had planned to hold a hearing last week for the lessees to answer charges of engaging in "deceptive or unconscionable trade practices." But when a lawyer for the men, Jay Yacker of Fort Lee, N.J., said he would repay money owed out of his clients' trust account, the department postponed the hearing. Coleman said two of five people who complained to the department about La Grange have received refunds totaling $600.
Another, Derek Lundquist of West Islip, whose mother works for Newsday, paid a deposit to have his daughter's first Communion party at La Grange in May. He said Consumer Affairs notified him that it had received a copy of a $500 check made out to him and dated Feb. 9. Lundquist's wife, Regina, said Monday that Yacker told the couple that the check had been sent to an incorrect address and a new check would arrive last Saturday. She said the second check had not yet come.
Yacker did not respond to requests for comment. Coleman said the hearing will now be held in 30 days unless the lessees pay back all those who filed complaints.
Meanwhile, more people who left deposits at La Grange are coming forward. Tania Reyes, 15, of Copiague, said her family left an $800 deposit in August for her Sweet 16 party planned for April. They scrambled to find another venue but Reyes said the party was already stretching her family's budget so they had to borrow the money for the new deposit.
"I'm really upset this happened," she said. "Ever since I was little I always passed by that place and said to my dad, 'Oh, I want to have my Sweet 16 there, because it's really pretty.' "