Journey Guitarist Suing Over Wedding Charges

The lead guitarist and founder of the iconic San Francisco rock band Journey sued the city Friday over a $240,000 fee to use a city landmark for his lavish wedding to a former reality television star.

Neal Schon married “Real Housewives of D.C.” star Michaele Salahi in December 2013 at the Palace of Fine Arts. For the reception, the couple rented an adjacent building that once housed the Exploratorium science museum.

Photo: John Shearer/Invision/AP, file
Arriving at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn.

Schon and his wife complain in their federal lawsuit that San Francisco officials unfairly jacked up the fee for the city’s permit six days before the wedding after learning the couple planned to broadcast the event as a pay-per-view television show. Schon called the last-minute fee hike “extortion” and unhappily paid for the permit so the wedding could proceed, according to the lawsuit.

Schon said he had initially agreed to pay the city $58,000. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office said the fee charged was appropriate. He acknowledged that the fee increased when officials learned of the pay-per-view plan.

“The only thing unusual about the Schons’ wedding was that it evolved from small and secret to a live commercial broadcast, and the city’s fees evolved accordingly,” Matt Dorsey said. “There are no hard feelings on our part, and nothing about their lawsuit will diminish San Francisco’s affection for Journey.”

Journey is a popular band in the city, and its song “Don’t Stop Believing” became the unofficial theme song of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Before starring in the 2010 season of “Housewives,” Salahi made headlines when she and her then-husband managed to crash a state dinner for India at the White House in 2009.

The Schons’ lawyers said they filed the lawsuit so others won’t go through the same experience with the city.

“City administrators are not supposed to make up what fees to charge people based on who they are, or because they agree to share their wedding – or anything else – on television,” said Rebecca Coll, one of Schon’s lawyers. “The Schons had a right to share their celebration with the world in real time without being penalized.”

Beyond the fee, the Schons complain that the city placed unfair restrictions on the festivities. The lawsuit alleges city officials banned the couple’s photographers from taking photos of the picturesque Palace rotunda on their wedding day.

The city also prohibited the couple from using one of the rooms in the adjacent building as they had planned. The city leases the building to a private school, which Schon had to pay $54,000 for a sublease. The theme of the reception was “royal, sexy, magic” and the couple had hoped to decorate three rooms using those themes.

The lawsuit alleges that city officials prohibited the couple from using the “sexy” theme after viewing its decor. Schon said city officials feared the room suggested “profane or pornographic thematic elements,” a charge Schon denies.

“The room was tastefully decorated,” the lawsuit says.