Wednesday, November 6, 2013

UPDATE: 'Bait and switch tactics' in wedding at the Sunbird

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 4:02 PM

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Sunbird marketing director Margaret Schroeder sent me an email today inviting me to a conference call tomorrow and including this statement:

“The Sunbird has always operated with the utmost integrity and we continue to meet the highest expectations of our guests.

"While we are disappointed with the recent ruling, it was not based upon the facts as we know them and we remain extremely confident that it will be reversed on appeal. In the interim, we are continuing to provide our guests with first class service and look forward to many more years of serving the Colorado Springs community.”

——— ORIGINAL POST: Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, 9:46 a.m. ———

The California restaurant company that owns The Sunbird, a former fine-dining standout that seemed in steep decline when we visited last July, rebooted it in April as a "mountain grill and tavern." Reviews are mixed, with the Gazette liking it and pretty much every Yelper since January 2012 really not liking it. We haven't been back, so can't add our opinion either way.

What we can tell you about, however, are the results of a lawsuit filed against the restaurant, then settled Oct. 10 and anonymously mailed to the Indy. We don't normally shout out every time somebody gets sued, but the wording used by Fourth District Judge Jonathan Walker in deciding the case was just too descriptive to pass up.

The case is Carolyn Ramagos vs. Colorado Springs Restaurant Corporation d/b/a The Sunbird Restaurant, No. 2013 C 14898. The gist of it is is that Ramagos booked her daughter Tiffany Frock's wedding with the Sunbird somewhere between Oct. 23 and Dec. 13 of last year, and that everything went south after that.

Apparently, the restaurant ended up renting out one of the rooms the bride had planned to use for preparation, but never included any language in the initial contract, which was called "sloppily prepared" by Walker.

Eventually, the restaurant "offered first the women's toilet, then the event planner's small office, and then a space where food is normally set up in the Pikes Peak Room as alternative places for the wedding party, including Bridesmaids, attendant children, the Bride, the Mother of the Bride, and the photographer."

Needless to say, the wedding was less than perfect, and the plaintiff alleged breach of contract. The court agreed, awarding Ramagos $8,935.96 in actual and consequential damages. It also found, however, that the Sunbird violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act "by employing bait and switch tactics," so the award was increased to an even $15,000, plus attorney's fees.

Ouch.

We contacted the Sunbird earlier this week to see if the case had provoked any changes to its policies, but have not heard back. In any case, here are our favorite parts of the order, numbered and quoted as they appear in the document:

3. The Defendant argues that Plaintiff's proof provided no evidence of public impact and no proof that the Defendant's actions were undertaken knowingly. The Court disagrees.

14. ... the Court finds that the testimony of the Sunbird representative, Lee Ann Wagner, is incredible. The Court counted no fewer than 18 or 19 occasions during her testimony in which she did, on cross examination, claim that she could not recall and/or did not know specific important details concerning the events that transpired that led to this Court filing.

18. This sloppiness is noted especially in looking at the document themselves that frequently refer to the event being planned as an awards event or ceremony whereas clearly a wedding was to be forthcoming.

25. The Defendant pulled the rug out from under the Plaintiff forty-eight hours prior to her scheduled wedding. The Plaintiff, her husband and her daughter had to scramble to find suitable replacement wedding plans ...

34. ... The Sunbird never told the Plaintiff, when she made the decision to use their services, that the promise to use the Pikes Peak room was conditional. That they rented the room to another at some point in time is unconscionable.

35. Furthermore, by offering the ladies toilet, the manager's office and a food preparation area at the back of the Pikes Peak Room, the Defendant was showing, or demonstrating defective services ...

39. She is further entitled to an award of three times the amount of actual damages which the Court finds was established by clear and convincing evidence that the Sunbird acted in bad faith ...

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