Sunday, July 7, 2013

Paul's on the Bay, a cautionary note

I get mad at Dina every time I drive past her shop, and have long been intending to review her place on Wedding Wire. I waited quite a while because I wanted Dad to get his deposit returned before I let loose a public rant. This is no news to most of you, but I'm linking this page to Wedding Wire (there was a word limit for the review. And I have no shortage of words for Dina.)

Deposit returned after many months, and here I go . . . .

“Paul’s on the Bay” is the converted/former Skopelos restaurant overlooking Pensacola Bay.  In May of 2012 we married at a nearby church and had our reception at Paul’s. I'm estimating that there were about 250 guests in attendance. We were blessed with good weather, so people dined both inside and outside. In short, it is a great venue but we found the manager/owner “Dina” difficult to work with and rather unprofessional.

Pros: Large back lawn with fantastic views of the water, trim landscaping, two massive oaks (1 in front, 1 behind building), front porch, huge professional kitchen, walk-in fridge, two large interior banquet rooms, fireplace/hearth, handsome bar area, central location: not far from downtown Pensacola, interstate access, and the beaches.

Cons: Spastic manager of the used-car-salesman variety, drop down tile ceiling, no direct water access (property sits atop a cliff of sorts; the shoreline drops steeply behind the fenced lawn), parking lot slightly small for large groups.

My recommendation: Be very clear and specific in your contract and get EVERYTHING in writing. The management seemed loosely organized.  Also, some vendors refuse to work with Paul’s, so if you have your heart set on a particular caterer, check with them first.

Our only real problem was with Dina Sigmund, the manager. When we first booked in October, we reviewed our contract with her very carefully, practically word for word. It clearly stated “any licensed bartender permitted.” Dina also operates a small wine shop on the same property, and offered me and my fiancĂ© a tasting for two.  We accepted the tasting and Dina took notes of what we liked, but we never made arrangements with her beverage services (nor did we implicate that we planned to). We found another local wine and liquor business (Richie’s) that offered more competitive pricing to fit our budget.

A week or two before the wedding we met with Dina to finalize details. Somehow she had presumed we were going to use her wines, and she reacted most unprofessionally when we politely informed her we had chosen another vendor for beverages.  She became very emotional and accused us of being unfair. She ought to tack on an extra fee, she said. How dare we taste her wines but ask a competitor to serve under her roof! I was shocked at her response. I lived in Virginia wine country for several years. A wine tasting (especially for only 2 people) is no big deal. You like the wines or you don’t—end of story. Furthermore, her wine store and her event hall were marketed as separate, distinct operations. How did she come to make this assumption?

I was stunned for a minute, and then thought, "What would mom say?" (Don't be fooled by her smile. Mom is no pushover. ) I firmly reminded Dina that our business with her was for the reception venue per se and that our contract specifically allowed for “any licensed bartender.” It was particularly irksome that Dina spoke as if we were indebted to her, when in fact we paid the full sticker price for her venue. We had never asked for any discount. 

We didn't give in to her outburst, and she apparently got over it. But it made for a very awkward situation at an already stressful time.

I had few problems with her on the day of the wedding; I do believe she was trying to be helpful. She had put out some decorations and knick knacks that I had not asked for (I’m not a white tulle kind of girl), but removed them upon my request. In the middle of the actual reception she said that there was a problem with the air conditioner, and would I be okay with a repair man going through the ceiling to fix it? I thought, “A repair man taking down ceiling tiles in the middle of the dance floor? Great timing.” But it’s Florida. You must have the A.C. on. I was too busy and distracted to follow up with her on that issue. No repair man ever showed, and for all I could tell the A.C. was still functional.

It was still a lovely place to party. Good luck.


  1. Hey Elizabeth! This is Amelia! First... not sure if you realized I read your blog, but somehow after finding martha's on pinterest, I've found yours too. Anyway, first of all, your wedding was beautiful!! And I absolutely loved it... Second of all, I totally feel your pain on the not being able to complain until all fees and such returned. Our photographer emailed me the night before the wedding to say that she had to decided to go out of town on the days when Mark and I had scheduled (and PAID for!) to do our wedding portraits after our honeymoon. She offered to give our money back or set up something for another time (yep... Mark and I are both going to totally fly back to Charleston from Montana so that we can have our photos taken... right.) Luckily, Craig's fiance is an amazing photographer so all of the portraits that have made it onto to fbook were actually by her -- and they came out great! (But yep, still trying to find the time to pick out all of the photos that I want prints of so that I can get our money back for the original portraits --- to top it all off -- after she cancelled on the portraits, there's not one picture of me standing by myself in my wedding dress from the whole day :( ). So, there's my mutual rant.... letting it gooooo... :) Hope you're doing great!! And, on a side note to this really long comment -- I'm living out in Montana now! Come visit! I'll be in Kalispell the first week in October and in White Sulphur Springs at the end of this month for a music festival!

    1. Your wedding looked so lovely, Amelia. I was really bummed when they made me work that weekend :( Soon after, I ran into Aunt Mary Lynn and Mirella at the grocery and got a sneak peek at their pictures. And the ones you posted later on FB are just gorgeous. Craig's fiance did a great job. But what a headache for the photographer to bail out like that!

      And we'd absolutely love to make it out to big sky country sometime!

  2. So glad you didn't forget to write this! I always find your ranting about the situation amusing (not to lessen the annoyance this was)

  3. I'd been holding my breath hoping Dad got the deposit back! . . . It was beautiful, in spite of it all. Just beautiful.

  4. Hello Elizabeth;
    I wanted to privately email you regarding your experience with Paul's on the Bay; however, your blog's email is not enabled. My daughter has chosen Paul's as her wedding & reception venue and I don't have a good feeling in the pit of my stomach about it. Therefore, I went in search of reviews and came across your blog. My first concern was her not having a "set rental price" that she would willingly share on the phone and it grew from there. Were you nickeled and dimed or did she give you a "set rental price"? The rental price "finally revealed" to my daughter should have included everything plus the kitchen sink :) The price is substantial in comparison to the Palafox Wharf.

    1. Hi! I think there's an email option on my blogger profile, look for the link under "Who's Blogging" on the right hand side of my blog, under my picture.

      We did get a set price . . . at first. I think our original contract detailed the price for: the venue and a set amount of tables/chairs, the security deposit, plus a staff fee. I think Dina did, before we signed on, mention that the outdoor cafe lighting was an additional fee.

      She later bought additional tables and chairs, and I paid for those separately. I did need more seating, so if I hadn't rented them from Dina, I would have had to rent them from someone else anyway. She also wanted to tack on that extra bar fee when she heard we were using Ritchie's for wine, but I flat out refused to go along with that.

      Best wishes for your family's wedding plans! (also, two months after I married, my sister had a July wedding at the Wharf and it was just beautiful.)

  5. Wow! Thanks Ladies! i just booked a wedding at Pauls on the Bay with Dina and I am super scared! She wants to charge $12 a person just to serve wine beer and liquor... and at about 75 people that is $900! Just to serve it! That does NOT include the beer wine liquor OR the bartender! I really love the venue but I am getting VERY worried with all of the negative thing I have read/heard about her. Do you think a wedding planner would be able to better handle her? And what about a security deposit? I know she is charging me $3,100 just to use the venue and no security deposit that I know of.... Not including linens HER decorations or anything in the $3,100. Any advice? I already gave he a substantial deposit and it is NON-REFUNDABLE!
    Bride to be....

    1. Wow, that's a hefty fee just to serve!! Is that explicitly required in your contract? If not, I would refuse to go along with it. I don't know much about working with wedding planners, but I feel strongly about holding Dina to her written agreements.

      It is a really lovely venue, but don't let her coerce you into anything you think is unfair. (BTW, we bought all our own linens online for about $12 bucks a table -- and reused and resold them later. Don't let her charge you more than that if you do rent linens from her.)

    2. She's changed the alcohol price to $10 a head, but venue is $3900…

  6. I tried to post once before and It doesn't look like it posted.. hmm.. I'll try again! I just got off the phone with her-- she's returning my call today from the message I left her LAST sunday… she wants us to come in and see the venue before she would discuss anything over the phone- that always makes me skeptical.. I did get her to tell me that beer/wine is $10/head (much higher than most places) and the venue is $3900 but that doesn't include linens, tables, chairs etc.. She said it's a high price because it includes so much-- by that I assume she means the decor she talked about on the phone.. Decor is really the LEAST of my worries.. We are paying for this wedding so we are trying to stick to our budget-- this isn't the venue for us and I'm thankful for girls who are honest about their experiences so that others don't have to go through it! Anytime a venue won't' give me detailed information on the phone I get very skeptical… So-- I won't be going to see the venue. I'm sure it's beautiful but not my kind of place!!!!