Send Ben: St. Augustine woman gets back nearly $4,000 from caterer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Renee Caira decided she wanted to bring people together.

“What inspired you?” asked Action News Jax Ben Becker. “Being couped up like everybody else in America,” said Caira.

>>More Action News Jax investigates

Caira planned a safe, socially-distanced block party in her St. Augustine neighborhood and gave a $3,893.94 deposit to Culinary Outfitters to cater her party in December 2020.

However, the pandemic still posed a problem and Caira decided to postpone.

She says Culinary Outfitters gave her a choice to either lose 50% of the deposit and not rebook or the business would hold onto all 100% and reschedule. Caira chose to rebook.

But by the time fall 2021 rolled around, Caira was ready but Culinary Outfitters was not.

“That’s when I found out they went out of business,” says Caira.

In September, Culinary Outfitters announced it was shutting down on its Facebook page, reading in part: “It comes with great sadness to announce that after a great run and many struggles we have officially closed.”

Action News Jax first introduced you to Culinary Outfitters owner/chef Chase Pritchard in 2019, when the restaurant/event space launched in the new St. Augustine shipyards.

Action News Jax first told you this past October that several brides initially lost their deposits before they were finally remarried with their money. But Caira’s refund for her block party hit a road block when her calls to Pritchard were not returned.

“Depending on the amount you can go to small claims court,” says Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson.

First Becker got to work and went to Pritchard’s home, but when he spotted Becker, Pritchard sped away in a pickup truck.

“Hey Chase, Chase, hey Chase,” said Becker, running full sprint. “Hey I want to ask you about the money you owe.”

Becker emailed Pritchard and his attorney to find out the status of Caira’s refund. His attorney responded:

“We are communicating with all clients to make sure their events are either refunded or fulfilled. An error left out Ms. Renee’s event but that has been rectified. The scenario Culinary Outfitters found itself in was not planned and unfortunate. Since the quick downturn Mr. Pritchard has worked hard to make sure all clients are or will be taken care of at great personal cost.To date we have paid back over $49,000 and should resolve the remaining few within the next month or so.”

Caira also received an email from Pritchard that said, in part:

“First off I need to apologize for the lack of communication. I’m emailing you to let you know I have a cashier’s check for you of $3983.93.”

STORY: Jacksonville woman arrested, accused of poisoning her partner’s drink because ‘he wouldn’t shut up’

Shortly afterward, Caira received her refund.

“I watch your show a lot,” Caira told Becker. “I thought why not let me reach out to Ben and see if he can get me some help. I still want to throw this party”

Pritchard’s attorney tells Becker that all of Culinary Outfitters’ clients have been made whole.