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Couples left in the lurch after sudden closure of popular wedding venue

The Courtyard Restaurant in Ottawa's ByWard Market sat empty on Wednesday, the morning after its owner announced its permanent closure over social media. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
The Courtyard Restaurant in Ottawa's ByWard Market sat empty on Wednesday, the morning after its owner announced its permanent closure over social media. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

Dozens of couples are scrambling to find a new spot to tie the knot after a popular downtown Ottawa restaurant and wedding venue abruptly closed.

On Tuesday, the Courtyard Restaurant in the ByWard Market announced on social media that it would be hosting its final dinner that evening. The restaurant had been operating since 1980, and was a fixture in the neighbourhood.

Stephanie Bartlett, whose wedding was scheduled to take place there in October, was shocked when she found out she had lost her venue.

We have so much money on the line. - Stephanie Bartlett, getting married in October 

"It was kind of just anger and kind of panic of how do we pivot, what do we do? We have so much money on the line," she said.

"This is a business that's been around for 40 years," Bartlett added. "It had a great reputation."

The Courtyard Restaurant emailed couples affected by the closure Tuesday afternoon.

"Unfortunately, we will be unable to refund any deposits or payments taken thus far nor be able to transfer any payments to your new venue," the email reads.

The email told customers to contact their credit card company for a refund.

Karim Pringle had booked the entire second floor of the restaurant for his wedding in August. He put down a $1,000 deposit in 2022, which his credit card company can no longer reimburse. The second deposit was scheduled for March.  
Karim Pringle had booked the entire second floor of the restaurant for his wedding in August. He put down a $1,000 deposit in 2022, which his credit card company can no longer reimburse. The second deposit was scheduled for March.

Karim Pringle booked the entire second floor of the Courtyard Restaurant for his wedding in August. Now he's out the $1,000 deposit he paid in 2022. (Submitted by Karim Pringle.)

Karim Pringle had booked the entire second floor of the restaurant for his wedding in August. He put down a $1,000 deposit in 2022, which his credit card company can no longer reimburse. The second deposit was scheduled for March.

"It's out the window. There's nothing we can do about it to get it back," Pringle said. "We're waiting to see if someone will do a class-action lawsuit."

Frantic requests to move venues

Kimberly Ryan, who co-ordinates events at Restaurant E18hteen, next door to the Courtyard Restaurant, woke up on Wednesday to frantic requests to move venues.

Ryan said dozens of ceremonies and receptions were scheduled to be held at the Courtyard in the coming months, including a wedding reception on Wednesday, the day after the email went out.

She spent two days working through requests, blocking off space at her restaurant this week and waiving ceremony fees to accommodate the most immediate requests.

Stephanie Bartlett and Kimberly Ryan pose inside Restaurant E18hteen. Bartlett reached out to Ryan after Courtyard cancelled her October date.
Stephanie Bartlett and Kimberly Ryan pose inside Restaurant E18hteen. Bartlett reached out to Ryan after Courtyard cancelled her October date.

Stephanie Bartlett, left, and Kimberly Ryan, right, stand inside Restaurant E18hteen. Bartlett reached out to Ryan after the Courtyard Restaurant cancelled her October wedding date. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

"It has been a bit of a whirlwind," Ryan said. "I helped a couple prepare for their wedding this evening that was supposed to be at Courtyard today. Clearly there was a very frazzled bride when she arrived with me, but I was able to find her space in our restaurant."

The reason for the Courtyard's sudden closure remains unknown. Neither the owner, Phil Waserman, nor other staff members could be reached for comment.

According to Ryan, the wedding venue's closure is a significant loss for the city.

"It's going to stretch for a while. It's a huge venue that we lost," she said. "They had bookings into 2025 that are reaching out to me now."