When Erin Golden received a phone call from the wedding planner at 43 Church in Salem, she thought it was to finalize the menu for her fall wedding in the restaurant’s function hall. No such luck.
“She said the restaurant had been sold” and was closing, Golden said. “I was shocked and said, ‘What do you mean? My wedding is in four months.’ ”
“I was terrified,” she said. “I thought I would have to cancel my wedding.”
Golden and her fiance, Spencer Bollacker, were among 10 couples whose weddings were sidetracked by the May 11 closing of 43 Church (the former Lyceum Bar & Grill). The sale of the restaurant to J. Turner Seafoods Inc. is being negotiated.
“43 Church regrets having to close because of the current challenging economy. We would have actually done so sooner, if not for our loyal staff,” the restaurant said in a statement released by Nancy Sterling of ML Strategies in Boston.
“We are currently negotiating a sale of the business. In the meantime, we regret that we have had to cancel all of our private events after June 1, including 10 weddings, due to uncertainty created by permitting and licensing issues in the sale process,” the statement continued.
“We are very sorry for the impact this has had on our customers, and are working with the wedding parties to help find alternate venues. We will be refunding all deposits and will reimburse relevant expenditures, such as already printed invitations, on a case-by-case basis.”
Sterling said people who had summer events planned at 43 Church were notified of the cancellations in late March and early April. Those with events from September to December received calls in early May.
Jim Turner, owner of J. Turner Seafoods with his three brothers, said if the sale goes through, the plan is to convert the first floor of the restaurant into a Turner’s Seafood, similar to his restaurant of the same name in Melrose. He said he wasn’t sure of plans for the upstairs function room.
Turner’s also has a wholesale fish plant and a seafood market in Gloucester.
“We don’t know what the timeline is” for the purchase and acquisition of the necessary permits and licenses for the Salem location, Turner said.
“We know we are going to be closed for a period of months,” he added. “We would like to be open in the fall, but it gets so involved. We have to respect the process.”
Turner said he didn’t want to tell people their functions could be held as planned in the fall if he wasn’t certain.
“We feel awful the situation exists,” he said. “But if we don’t know we can do something, we are not going to say we can, and just hope we can. That would be worse.”
Golden, a native of Swampscott and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, and Bollacker, a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, have been engaged for two years; they booked the function room at 43 Church in February 2012.
She said the room “had a rustic and Colonial feel and was beautiful.” It also fit within their budget.
Golden said she wanted to get married in the area where she grew up and share it with the couple’s friends and family, 90 percent of whom are coming from out of town. Most had already booked hotel rooms for the Sept. 7 weekend.
After Golden got the news of the restaurant closing, she called a local friend who put her in touch with Karen O’Kane, director of catering at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem.
“I never felt so bad for brides,” said O’Kane, who has worked in catering for the hotel for 30 years. “They were panicked and crying.”
She said she received at least 10 calls from couples looking to relocate their receptions, but had to turn down most because the schedule was full.
“We booked two and are holding another date tentatively,” she said.
Dave McKillop, owner of Rockafellas in Salem, said his restaurant is also “trying to help everybody out as best we can. . . . We have some space and availability.”
Golden will now be having her wedding at the museum.
“If I could have [originally] picked the Peabody Essex, I would have,” Golden said. But it was too pricey. Now, she will have her reception there within the same budget she had set for 43 Church.
“I am going to have a way better wedding than I was going to,” she said. “I’m very excited about it.”Wendy Killeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.