Bewley’s landlord brings action seeking €747,000 in alleged rent arrears

Company controlled by Johnny Ronan owns Grafton Street premises

RGRE was made aware of the tenant’s intention to permanently close the cafe, and make all staff redundant, through statements in The Irish Times newspaper, counsel said. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

RGRE was made aware of the tenant’s intention to permanently close the cafe, and make all staff redundant, through statements in The Irish Times newspaper, counsel said. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The landlord of Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street in Dublin has brought a legal action seeking alleged rent arrears of €747,000 and possession of the landmark property.

RGRE Grafton Ltd, a company controlled by developer Johnny Ronan, will apply next Monday to have its action against Bewley’s Cafe Grafton Street Ltd, in which it seeks summary judgment of €747,000 and possession of the premises, admitted to the fast-track Commercial Court list.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice David Barniville on Wednesday when RGRE sought permission to apply next week to have the case fast-tracked.

Ross Awlyard BL, instructed by solicitor Barbara Galvin of Eversheds, for the landlord, said the matter was urgent from his client’s perspective.

RGRE was the successor in title of the premises, leased to the defendants since 1987, counsel said. The annual rent due was about €1.4 million, to be paid on a quarterly basis.

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in the closure of many businesses, the defendant asked for a rent holiday of six months, counsel said.

While his client considered that, and other similar rent holiday requests from other tenants of firms within the group, the Bewley’s application was declined as RGRE believed it had the means to discharge its rent obligations.

Cash reserves

One of the reasons for refusal was that the tenant’s parent company, Bewley’s Ltd, which RGRE says is owned by the family of businessman Patrick Campbell, was sitting on cash reserves of more than €6 million and net assets of €5 million, counsel said.

RGRE was made aware of the tenant’s intention to permanently close the cafe, and make all staff redundant, through statements in The Irish Times newspaper, he said.

The cafe did not reopen after certain restrictions on businesses were lifted late last month.

Since late April, the defendant had not engaged in any meaningful way with RGRE or brokered an agreement to try to save the cafe business, counsel said.

As a result, rent, plus interest, totalling some €747,000 was due and owing to RGRE and the landlord did not have possession of the property, counsel said.

The rent was substantial and his client had obligations to other third parties, he said.

The judge gave RGRE permission to apply next Monday to have the action admitted to the Commercial Court list.