Waldron House switch leaves brides without venue

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Alicia McDonald and her fiancé had it planned for months: An Oct. 20 wedding and reception at the Waldron Public House in downtown Grand Rapids.

“I thought it was beautiful,” McDonald said of the venue located on Ionia Avenue SW. “We were excited because they had so much that they took care of for us.”

But Monday morning, McDonald received an unexpected phone call from a venue organizer.

“The rug just got pulled out front under me. It was shocking, obviously,” McDonald said of the call.

She learned the Waldron Public House will soon be no more. The last event there was happening Tuesday night.

BarFly Ventures operates Waldron Public House. Its founder, Mark Sellers, is starting a new business at the historic Waldron building. It will be owned and operated separately from BarFly.

The new business will be called Max’s South Seas Hideway. The plans call for a tiki-themed bar and restaurant on the first two floors, with a tiki-themed Airbnb on the third floor.  

“It’s an escape from reality,” Sellers said of the new project. “It’s just this beautiful Polynesian tropical paradise with great artwork, great cocktails, great food.”

Sellers said they’ll start work on the project within days. But that means brides and groups who booked the Waldron must now find a new venue on short notice.

“Now we have to replace the catering. Now we have to replace the DJ and everything else that we thought we had settled,” McDonald said. 

Sellers said there are a few dozen events that must switch venues because of the change. He said BarFly Ventures is trying to help brides in limbo by refunding deposits, offering to pay for new invitations, and helping them find new venues.

“I do feel for them. It was a business decision, but it was a difficult decision in that regard,” Sellers said. 

He said BarFly Ventures started contacting some of those impacted several weeks ago, but not everyone.
McDonald didn’t get a call until Monday. She wonders why she didn’t learn the news sooner. 

“I think there may have been some people that we probably dropped the ball on a little bit,” Sellers admitted. “This particular woman sounds like we may have waited too long to contact her, and I apologize profusely for that.”

“We go to HopCat, we go to Stella’s, but no more,” McDonald said of BarFly Ventures’ businesses. “We can’t trust them or contribute to their business anymore.” 

McDonald is looking at all options for a new venue and welcomes any advice or help. She can be reached by email.

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