CRANBERRY TWP — By now, it's old news: Noah's Event Venue closed it doors abruptly Friday following a bankruptcy court filing from May.
While some clients were formally notified soon after the decision, others weren't.
Kevin Roche, interim board president of the Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh, happened to learn about it while monitoring DSAP's social media.
He said Noah's didn't officially contact a member of the DSAP board until Monday. But he reached out to DSAP's planning committee as soon as he verified Noah's was closing.
“We acted pretty quickly,” Roche said. “We immediately started to try to scramble.”
DSAP had planned to hold a World Down Syndrome Day Dance on March 21 at Noah's. The date — 3-21 — is important because it references the triplication of the human chromosome 21, which results in Down syndrome.
Search for new venue
Roche said with the closing of Noah's, the date has lost some of its significance. Finding a new location at the last minute has been challenging.
“We had to change either our time or the date,” Roche said.
“It's so sad,” said Jack Cohen, president of Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau. “People call us, and we're trying to help them find facilities.”
The tourism bureau already has received six or seven calls from displaced clients, according to Cohen.
Roche said DSAP used Noah's in Cranberry Township last year for its first World Down Syndrome Day Dance. The location was central, accessible and had better parking than other venues. Plans for this year's dance began months ago.
The event is important to DSAP because it provides an opportunity for DSAP families to connect and have fun. The event is informal. The music is danceable. And there's ad-libbed karaoke.
“This is probably our warmest event,” Roche said. “I've never seen so much smiling and joy.”
Last year, the dance brought in 150 people. DSAP was anticipating 250 this March.
The dance was more than just the venue, too. Roche said services were secured for catering, photography and music.
Tourism bureau helping
In the wake of Noah's closure, the tourism bureau has been assisting vendors as well as Noah's clients. Some venues, like many hotels, have their own food services and aren't open to contracted caterers.
The trick has been to help event planners relocate to facilities that will let them retain most of their plans. The tourism bureau is being creative when it comes to finding open and available venues, according to Cohen.
“We've had to turn every rock over,” Cohen said.
Roche said DSAP also has tried several avenues for rescheduling the dance. One venue that came to light for DSAP was Southpointe Golf Club. The club offered to waive several fees to help, according to Roche. He said the association was thankful for the offer.
“They really stepped up for us,” Roche said.
The closing of Noah's will leave DSAP several thousand dollars short, according to Roche. He also expects the association will be toward the bottom of the list when it comes to receiving any possible refunds.
“We don't really know the outcome financially, yet,” Roche said.
At the very least, DSAP faces a substantial increase in costs associated with planning a new event. No concrete plans have been made regarding a new dance.
“We're going to have to break some news (to the) community,” Roche said.
According to Cohen, there's something to be learned from the Noah's situation: When planning an event, it's important to be aware of the financial state a venue or vendor is in.
Being caught unaware can cause big last-minute issues for event planners.
“We feel just as bad as they do,” Cohen said. “It's a shame.”
Roche said DSAP will be releasing more information as plans are made. Details will be posted on DSAP's Facebook page and at www.dsapgh.org, according to Roche.
“Just make sure the community stays tuned,” Roche said. “If the dance needs rescheduled, we are going to put on a dance.”