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Club closure crashed couple’s wedding plans, suit claims

After months of searching, Gladys Olives and Orlando Gonzales thought they’d found the perfect venue for their April wedding reception.

Club Rio Rancho offered mountain views where they’d pose for wedding photos, ample space for their more than 300 guests and the price was within their budget. So in July, they wrote a check – $6,423 for the facility, staff, food and beverages.

But in late December, the club closed, leaving Olives and Gonzales out thousands of dollars and scrambling to find a new reception venue. The two filed a lawsuit in 2nd Judicial District Court last week hoping to recover their money from the now defunct club and its owner, Jhett Browne. Browne could not be reached for comment and it is not clear who is representing him.

“It’s not a good feeling, I’ll tell you that,” Gonzales said. “Especially when it’s a day as important as our wedding.”

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He and his fiancée have postponed their wedding by a year and are relieved that they held off on sending invitations and booking a DJ and photographer.

“Now we have to start all over again,” he said.

He hopes to save over the next few months as business at his landscaping company picks up with warmer weather.

“I’m trying to sympathize with the owner, I’m a business owner myself,” Gonzales said. “But when I think about it, I think he had to probably have known. He knew he was possibly taking my money without honoring our deal.”

So far, according to the lawsuit, Browne has “refused to refund” Gonzales, 32, and Olives, 33, who both live in Rio Rancho.

According to a deed in lieu of foreclosure, Browne turned over the club and golf course to Southwest Capital Bank in late December, the Rio Rancho Observer reported.

Brian Branch, the attorney representing Gonzales and Olives, said he doesn’t know who else the club owes money to or what other creditors there are and so he’s not sure how likely it is that the couple will see their money again.

“What I told (Gonzales) was, we might as well file suit,” Branch said. “I have a pretty good idea, if they owe you $7,000, you’re not the only one they owe money to.”

The City of Rio Rancho filed a property lien against the club for unpaid water and wastewater services totaling more than $333,000, according to a spokeswoman.

The couple is seeking compensatory damages.

One bright spot: Branch agreed to represent the couple pro bono.

“I just feel bad for a young couple like this, trying to get things started and to have this hurdle to overcome,” he said. “I’m going to try to do what I can.”

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