It looked like smooth sailing for Palmdale resident Sal Ortiz and his fiancée Elisa Granados. With about three months to go until their wedding at the Castaway Restaurant in Burbank, they had a few more tasks to do before their big day on Sept. 9.
The couple were scheduled to have a food tasting at the Castaway on June 16, but the day before that appointment, Ortiz received a phone call from the restaurant.
It wasn't good news. He was told his wedding and reception would have to be changed to another date or moved to one of the restaurant's sister locations because of a $10-million renovation that is scheduled to start at the Burbank facility in August.
Specialty Restaurants Corp., the company that owns the Castaway and several other Southern California restaurants, announced earlier this month it would be renovating the 54-year-old Burbank landmark to improve its amenities and give it a fresh look.
The restaurant is set to be closed on Aug. 6, and it's estimated the work will take about six months. Its banquet halls are scheduled to be closed for about two months, beginning Aug. 13.
Ortiz said he thought the phone call from the Castaway would be a reminder about the food-tasting session. However, the news he received was the last thing he and Granados wanted to hear.
"I told them that they ruined my freaking wedding," Ortiz said. "A lot of planning and a lot of time goes into picking your venue, so that's most of your wedding right there."
Ortiz, 41, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, said he and Granados had made a deposit of about $2,500 and booked their date at the Castaway in October 2016. He said they were willing to pay the price — a little over $12,000 — for the venue, because they believed it was the ideal location for their wedding.
Management at the Castaway offered Ortiz the option of moving his wedding to the Odyssey restaurant in Granada Hills. Ortiz said he has had several business meetings at the Odyssey, but it is not his ideal venue for his wedding.
According to a statement from Specialty Restaurants, all guests who had reservations for dates that coincide with the time of the renovation were notified and that anyone who does not want to move their wedding to one of the company's sister venues will receive their deposits back.
"The happiness and comfort of our valued guests is our number one priority," restaurant officials said in the statement. "We'll make sure that all reservations are taken care of to the best of our ability and with the upmost hospitality. We understand the importance of your special day and apologize for any inconvenience for you and your guests."
Specialty Restaurants would not comment on how many guests were affected by the renovations.
Ortiz and Granados scrambled to find another venue that would accommodate about 150 guests on short notice. They have since booked the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club, Ortiz said.
Ortiz and his fiancée were not the only couple affected by the Castaway's renovation. Torrance resident Courtney Hall and her fiancé Daniel Rafaeloff had booked the venue almost a year ago and were looking forward to celebrating their wedding there on Sept. 16.
Hall said she found out about the renovation on June 14 after her father sent her a link to a Leader story about the scheduled work. She quickly contacted the restaurant representative she had been working with and was told the representative had just learned about the closure as well.
"After hearing about the renovation, I completely shut down," Hall said. "We definitely dotted our I's and crossed our T's and booked everything in advance, so hearing this was devastating."
She and Rafaeloff were ready to pay about $26,000 to hold their wedding at the Castaway and had put down a $5,600 deposit. Hall added that they were scheduled to make another payment to the venue on June 18, but opted not to, after learning about the renovation.
Finding the right venue was already challenging for Hall and Rafaeloff. Because she is Catholic and he is Jewish, Hall said they wanted a venue that could meet their needs and accommodate more than 250 guests, many of whom are flying in from across the country and from Israel.
Hall said she and her fiancé have been open to working with Specialty Restaurants. After looking at several venues, Hall said that they are considering moving the wedding to one of the sites recommended by Specialty, Calamigos Equestrian, located in Burbank's Rancho District.
However, Hall said that the cost of having the wedding at Calamigos Equestrian is estimated to be a little over $34,000 and that she might have to change the wedding date in order to keep the vendors she has already booked.
"It's a waiting game right now," Hall said. "I emailed Castaway to see what they can do for us, so we'll just have to go on from there … I'm truly devastated by this."