No Quinceañera - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

No Quinceañera

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Bryanna Defas' quinceañera photo Bryanna Defas' quinceañera photo

A quinceañera: a big event when a Hispanic girl turns 15, for the teenager and her family. Some South Florida families were devastated this month when a banquet hall that hosts many of the parties suddenly shut down, leaving the girls despondent. So what can they do? Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- If you are Hispanic, you probably know what a quinceañera is. If not, it's a pretty big deal.

Adelfa Benitez: "When I turned 15, I wanted a party. My parents could not afford one, so when my granddaughter was born, I said I would take care of her quinceañera party."

Adelfa and her daughter Vivian have been planning Bryanna's quinceañera for a year, the traditional party when a 15-year-old girl goes from being considered a child to a young woman.

Bryanna Defas: "Feel a little more grown up, ready to get my restricted."

A hundred and ten of Bryanna's friends and family were invited, and Adelfa had reserved the SalsAmor Banquet Hall for the January 25th party.

Adelfa Benitez: "I am actually extremely excited."

Adelfa had given the owners of the banquet hall an $800 deposit. Then in December, one of the owners called her requesting more money, and she says they told her they would not accept a credit card.

Adelfa Benitez: "'Here is a check for $500.' When I gave her the check she said, 'Don't make the check to SalsAmor, make the check payable to cash.'"

About the same time, Maria Cuellar, who was planning a quinceañera for her niece, got a similar call.

Maria Cuellar: "And December 19th, the owner, Percy, calls me and tells me the accountant needed another $500. My party was for January 31st. I went and took him the money."

Then about two weeks later, both women got this e-mail.

Adelfa Benitez: "From the banquet hall saying they had closed down their business effective immediately."

Maria Cuellar: "I had a severe headache. I was like, 'No, this is not happening.'"

Maria had a headache. The girls were heartbroken.

Bryanna Defas: "I was sad but mostly, like, mad, because they did all this work for me to have a quince and they just canceled."

The owners promised to return Adelfa's $1,300 dollars and Maria's $1,000 within three months, but the invitations were sent out and the parties are this month.

Adelfa Benitez: "I told her, 'Mamita, don't worry, you will have your fifteens no matter what.'"

The 15-year-old girl's plans for quinces are being quashed, and their families are fuming at the banquet hall owners.

Well, Howard, the girls may have their coming out party, but it won't be at this banquet hall, so can the banquet hall owners just say, "Sorry, no party here?"

Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately, the customer is in a tough spot when dealing with a company. Yes, the banquet hall has to host the party on the agreed night, but if they go out of business you are out of luck. They do have to return your money, but if the corporation is shut down and has no assets, you can't get any money because you can't go after the owners, only the company."

We called one of the owners, who said they had been the victim of a crime and police told them not to talk about it with anyone. However, in an e-mail to Adelfa they wrote that a business partner stole $50,000 from the company, leaving them broke.

The owner also said they had no idea they were going out of business when they asked Adelfa and Maria for checks in December. When we asked why they would not accept credit cards, we were told they do. Both women told us they would not.

Finally, one of the owners promised to give Adelfa $500 immediately, and promised to give Maria $500 this week.

Howard Finkelstein: "If the company knew they were going out of business and took cash knowing they would not be open, that's a crime. But apparently not in this case, because the owner is returning some of the money and appears to be the victim of a crime himself, so he's doing what he can to make things a little better."

The owner did deliver part of the money to Adelfa, $500 dollars, and even better, she found another place on the same night, to hold Bryanna's quinceañera.

Bryanna Defas: "Happy, because I know she said she would do it."

Adelfa Benitez: "Help Me Howard, you had everything to do with it."

Hope the banquet hall owners keep their promise and return the rest of the money. We will let you know, and hopefully the girls will have wonderful parties. Also, whenever you pay for something like this, use a credit card even if you have cash. Then, if you don't get what you paid for, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company, and in many cases, get your money back. And if a company won't accept a credit card, walk away.

Planning a party and someone crashed it? Ready to come out and celebrate? Contact us. We won't dance with you, but hopefully your 15 minutes of fame will leave you in a festive mood.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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