San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel Tara Gone with the Wind

AFTER an ownership change, HotelTara in Escazú ceased to exist on July 15,and with it went wedding plans and hotelreservations.“I found out last week through my cakecaterer,” said Lorena McDowell, one of thebrides. “My wedding is August 14 and Ihave nowhere to go. I just started laughinghysterically when I heard. It was just sounbelievable. There’s just not enoughtime.”McDowell’s was one of 30 weddingsplanned at the hotel, styled after the housein “Gone With the Wind.” About 200 hotelreservations also had to be canceled. Hotelguests at the time had to relocate.Even former owner Richard Shambleywas not spared – he was evicted from theproperty when new owner, Regis Moreauunexpectedly showed up with his attorneyand armed guards to turn the hotel into aprivate residence.PREVIOUS owner Shambley, who isoriginally from North Carolina and retainsthe accent, moved to Costa Rica in 1989after spending 20 years living in California.Shambley wears stylish sunglasses anda gold chain necklace. When he’s nervousor uncomfortable he folds his large handsand looks away.“I brought in a partner on Sept. 11, theday New York went down,” Shambleysaid. “I gave him a lot of liberty and a lotof guarantee on his investment. We weren’tmaking any money but I said, ‘just wait’and he didn’t want to wait. So, he sold it toa dummy corporation and then sold it tothis guy, Reggie. So, he got the money forhis investment and left me hanging.”Moreau, the new owner, bought thehotel from the “dummy corporation” – acorporation without any assets that existson paper – in January.“Reggie (Moreau) and them came to thehotel and they had been trying to evict mebecause I was living on the property,”Shambley continued, dropped his shouldersand looked away. “They had been trying todo that for several months. They came upwith the attorney and said, ‘Ya know, wecan have the police haul everybody off oryou can do it voluntarily.’ So, we calledeverybody together and said, ‘Ya know,we’re sorry. I’m being evicted and the newowner wants everybody off the property.’”SHAMBLEY said he showed Moreauthe list of upcoming weddings and thereservations and tried to convince him tohonor those plans – to no avail.The difficult part, Shambley said, isgoing through the hastily boxed papers tofind the couples. As of press time, 21 of the30 couples had their deposit returned.Shambley said unlike Rhett Butler, hedoes give a damn and he’ll show it in thelegal battle he plans to wage. He says is99% sure he will get the property back.THE frustrated bride, McDowell,heard the gossip version of events.“The new owner came in with armedguards and no warning to anyone,” sherelayed. “He kicked guests out of theirrooms, fired the employees and everyonewas gone in an hour. I know a formeremployee who said it was a horrible experience.We called the hotel and they wouldn’ttell us anything. They just said it’s not ahotel and that it’s now a private residence.”When she went to pick up her refund,she was surprised to see armed guards.THE new owner has vacationed inCosta Rica for the last five years. Beforeretiring, he owned Shooters, a popular Ft.Lauderdale waterfront restaurant.Moreau has graying hair and a tannedface. He wears a peach colored shirt with a1950s car print, black slacks and loafers.He plans on remodeling the pool, hotelrooms and restaurant, adding an Americanstylecigar bar with glassed in patio andextending the second-floor balcony. Whencompleted, it will be the CR Mansion, afive-star hotel and restaurant. Moreaubought the hotel from a man in Manhattan.“He had the property because heloaned money to the previous owner,” saidMoreau, “who didn’t make payments forthree years. Finally, the property wasturned over to the Manhattan guy and Ibought it from him, but the previous ownerwas still living on the property and it tooksix months to get him evicted.”TO Shambley’s credit, Moreau said heknew the process would take a while andthat Shambley probably thought it wouldtake even longer.“But he didn’t let any of the weddingpeople know. Even after it was sold, hecontinued taking wedding deposits. Theemployees, as far as I know, had no headsupeither,” Moreau said. “I had no ideaweddings were so popular here.”The hotel’s patio has been torn apart,grass dug up and mud covers the tile floor.“Who would want to have a weddinghere now?” Moreau said.MCDOWELL says she is franticallycalling places to find a change of venue.“I had a whole month’s warning,” shesaid. “I can’t imagine what it was like forthe people who were going to get marriedthat weekend.”

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