Customers out thousands after Valley banquet business folds

Posted: Updated:
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Customers are presumably out thousands of dollars and their dreams are shattered after a Valley banquet hall suddenly closed its two locations without explanation.

The Royal Garden Event Center locations in both Phoenix and Mesa are locked up tight. On the door of the Phoenix location is a sign telling people that the business was shut down for operating without a certificate of occupancy – a city code violation.

Now, a former employee is telling 3TV that she tried to blow the whistle when she found out the owners were in trouble. She said when she asked the owners about missing paperwork and city code violations, she was fired.

3TV agreed to shield the employee’s identity since she’s worried about finding work following the collapse of Royal Garden.

The employee said the owners of the business, Ignacio and Marlena Cabrera, have now skipped town and are in Mexico. According to the employee, the Cabreras haven’t contacted any customers or given any money back.

"I am 25 days away from my wedding," said Beatriz Garcia, who claims she paid Royal Garden $8,000 to have her wedding at the Mesa location. "You work so hard trying to come up with all of this money to have one of the best days of your life and it's not happening."

Garcia said she can't get ahold of any Royal Garden staff now that the business is closed.

She's just one of many Royal Garden customers who now have no location to host big events they've already paid thousands to organize. Weddings, quinceaneras and baptisms are on hold and the people who paid Royal Garden to host them are furious and frustrated.

"A lot of [customer contracts] were paid. We have them all the way up to the year 2016. I spoke with a client today and her party was May 2016," said the employee, adding that the Cabreras owe a lot of people a lot of money. 

The employee told 3TV she accidentally stumbled into documents showing the business was in bad shape when the property management company representing the strip mall where Royal Garden is located asked the business to produce a certificate of occupancy. She said she went to the city offices to find the certificate but instead found a lot of troubling documentation that showed Royal Garden was out of compliance in several areas.

She showed 3TV all the documents she found, including failed fire inspections.

"I discovered that the building permit was not under Royal Garden, it was under Royal Gathering," the employee said. "I also discovered that the fire inspector had stated that the building was ... unsafe. Also, there was never a license produced, license for taxes, license for the building."

She said she confronted the Cabreras but was given the runaround and eventually they simply changed the locks and stopped communicating with her.

The city has now shut Royal Garden down in Phoenix. The Mesa location is closed as well although no reason has been given.

The Cabreras weren't home when 3TV knocked on their door Tuesday evening and the employee said they’ve skipped town with all the money.

"I haven't been paid in two months by anybody," she said. "I'm out of a job. I'm unemployed now. It’s Christmastime and I have a family to support, too. Not only that, I feel bad for the [customers]."