Banquet Halls Sue Netanya for Libel

Owners of banquet halls says they were unjustifiably hounded after 2001 Versailles wedding hall tragedy.

Two banquet hall owners in Netanya are suing city hall and the publisher of the local weekly, This Week in Netanya, for NIS 8 million, claiming they have been unjustifiably hounded after the Versailles wedding hall tragedy in Jerusalem, which happened in May 2001.

Ulamei Kinor David (King David's Harp Halls), which owns a complex of banquet halls, and S.D.R. Iruim (Events), which manages the complex, are the firms behind the claim.

The Versailles wedding hall collapsed during the nuptials of Keren and Asaf Dror on the night of May 24, killing 23 and injuring about 380 people. The collapse was found to be caused by faulty construction and maintenance.

Shortly thereafter, claim the companies, the Netanya municipality began harassing them, writing warning letters that people had been complaining to the city about a feeling that "while they were dancing, the ceiling was sinking in a significant manner."The Versailles hall disaster had been linked to the use of a Pal-Kal light-weight ceiling.

Then in June 2001, This Week in Netanya, wrote that Netanya city hall had issued a warning before closing the complex, including comments from the city engineer. As a result, the hall companies claim, dozens of events were canceled.

During June 2001 the weekly ran several articles clarifying that the complex was safe. But the companies claim that business was terrible and the stories humiliated them because of the association with Versailles disaster. Also, the companies point out, they can only operate with a license from the city of Netanya and surely the city wouldn't grant an operating license to a wedding hall without inspecting it properly.

The companies demand NIS 6 million in compensation from the municipality and NIS 2 million from the paper.

The city of Netanya said that Kinor David had been (and is) operating without a building permit and naturally after the Versailles horror and complaints from people about a shaky dance floor, concern arose that the hall was dangerous. It asked the city engineer to inspect. The paper commented that the lawsuit was vexatious.