Eleni Paneras is furious she's not being refunded her $2000 booking fee for her daughter Georgie's christening celebration, which was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Eleni Paneras is furious she's not being refunded her $2000 booking fee for her daughter Georgie's christening celebration, which was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Mum’s fury over ‘shameful’ $2k virus fee

Sydney mum Eleni Paneras wanted to give her baby daughter Georgie a big, beautiful christening celebration, but those hopes were dashed by COVID-19.

With social distancing restrictions now limiting christenings to five attendees only, the event - which was supposed to have 150 guests and celebrated at Navarra Venues' Conca D'oro ballroom on May 24 - had to be cancelled.

While the ceremony itself will still go ahead as planned with just Georgie's parents, godparents and the priest in attendance, Ms Paneras said the large event could no longer take place due to the health risk posed.

But after a "stressful" and lengthy email exchange seen by news.com.au, the venue has refused to refund the $2000 booking fee, instead offering a credit note to be used up until July 2021 which Ms Paneras said was all but worthless.

"It's not like we want to cancel - they just can't physically hold this event now," she told news.com.au.

"I'm on maternity leave so there's no money coming in, and my husband works at a small law firm and has had his hours cut by one day a week - we have a big mortgage and things are getting tight.

"It's tough and the stress is starting to affect us mental health-wise and on top of everything else that's happening, we didn't need this now."

Ms Paneras and her husband held their 2011 wedding reception at one of Navarra's other venues and the wider family has also held many events with the company over the years.

She said she was disappointed the relationship had deteriorated so drastically.

The event was due to be held at Conca D'oro in Riverwood.
The event was due to be held at Conca D'oro in Riverwood.

"It felt really soulless and I felt backed into a corner," she said.

"It has left such a sour taste in our mouths that I don't want to reschedule with them. My baby deserves a big christening like my son had, but we have been left feeling quite deflated.

"How can they treat us like this when times are so tough?"

Initially, the company had suggested cutting the guest list to 90 and seating them with one person per 4 sqm which was in line with previous government restrictions, but that is no longer an option.

Mrs Paneras said it was also impossible to lock in a future date for a potential celebration given the government kept changing restrictions as the situation evolved, and that the family's Greek Orthodox faith meant their baby had to be christened before a certain time.

She argued coronavirus meant the company's "force majeure" clause should apply, which states that if the company cancels an event due to an unforeseen "act of God", all deposits will be refunded.

As the firm can no longer hold the event on the agreed-upon date, the family maintains they are not obligated to postpone it and should be entitled to their money back.

Ms Paneras said her priority was to have baby Georgie christened.
Ms Paneras said her priority was to have baby Georgie christened.

"It is shameful behaviour - it's unfair and I'm really disappointed with how it turned out because I don't ever want to hold a function with them again after this experience, it has been quite toxic," Ms Paneras said.

The mum-of-two recently voiced her frustrations on social media and was inundated with messages from contacts in similar situations, with a variety of companies not refunding cash for coronavirus-related cancellations.

"There are a lot of people complaining they're going through the same thing - it seems to be happening everywhere," she said.

"I feel like it's a bit of a David and Goliath battle and it is really sad, but at the end of the day I just want my baby girl christened.

"A big party afterwards is not important right now given the scary state of the world - that's the last thing we should be thinking of, and I would have thought (the company) would have been more sympathetic to that."

News.com.au contacted Navarra Venues for comment but a response was not received.

Originally published as Mum's fury over 'shameful' $2k virus fee



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