Wedding venue cannot meet code: Breach of contract?

A wedding venue in Glenmore, Wisconsin recently was forced to shut its doors due to zoning violations, leaving at least some couples scrambling to find an alternate venue. Despite frantic pleas by disgruntled brides to the Town Zoning Board, the city wouldn’t budge, and the venue remains shuttered.

Wedding Venue Breach of Contract for Failing to Meet Code?

Admittedly, the owner,Steve Corrigan, has known about that zoning issues since at least last year, when he requested a permit to build extra bathrooms. It was then that, despite having been in business for nearly a decade, the the town zoning administrator told him his land was improperly zoned. At that time, Corrigan submitted a re-zoning request that was ultimately denied by the Board. The reasoning?

“A community business should not be in an environmentally sensitive area.”

Why the Town Zoning Board let him slip through the cracks for so long is anyone’s guess. Some extra salt on the wound:  the zoning inspector has never been on this property to assess the safety issues involved with the application. Meanwhile, Corrigan states that “There’s numerous other wedding venue barns through out the state and they’re all different type of zoning.” What gives?!

While Corrigan has filed a temporary restraining order requesting to stay in business while this stuff gets sorted out, what is the liability that he would incur, as a business owner, should the Court uphold the Board’s decision?

Generally, when the Government steps in and causes a venue to shut its doors (think imminent domain, emergency situations, alien invasion), this would qualify as a force majuere event, and the wedding venue would be off the hook for a breach of contract action. However, this situation seems to be of the owners own doing. Despite knowledge that the venue was improperly zoned and therefore subject to a Government forced shut-down, the owner continued to book weddings. As such, a Judge could rule in favor of the Bride for damages arising from the shut-down (for example, the difference in cost to book another venue last minute).

Moral of the Story: Operating a Wedding Venue? Make sure your contract has a Force Majeure Clause, and also, grease the wheels over at the town Zoning Board.