Row over Long Stone pub could delay Apollo House sale

Commercial Court hears dispute over publican’s alleged unlawful occupation

The Long Stone Pub on Townsend Street, in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Long Stone Pub on Townsend Street, in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A dispute over a publican’s alleged unlawful occupation of the Long Stone pub in Dublin’s city centre could delay the planned sale and redevelopment of the Apollo House site, with a market value of some €35 million, the Commercial Court has been told.

Cuprum Properties Ltd, acting via its joint receivers and managers Tom O’Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars, claim the lease for the Long Stone expired on October 4th. It claims a deed of renunciation of tenancy had been signed prior to that by publican Noel Murray, with the benefit of legal advice, and he is in unlawful occupation of the premises.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Mr Murray, argued the receivers’ Commercial Court application is a bid to get a publican out of a “landmark premises” employing 30 people. Mr Murray is not a trespasser, he is entitled to apply for a new tenancy and the validity and effect of the deed for renunciation is “hotly disputed”, counsel said.

Urban renewal

In court documents, the receivers say Cuprum’s assets include not just the Long Stone but the surrounding buildings known as the Apollo House site which, with the Long Stone, is subject of a significant re-development strategy designed to bring urban renewal.

That redevelopment is due to be “imminently commenced” and it is “imperative”, for the development to be done in line with planning permission, including demolition works the receivers want to commence without delay, vacant possession be obtained, the receivers said in court documents.

They said the site has a market value of some €35 million and it is anticipated the entire site, including the Long Stone, could realise a sale price of €40 million. Mr Murray’s actions, they claim, are impeding sale and they allege delay in realising the sale proceeds could result in a loss of a sale value of €7.5 million, not including €35,000 monthly security costs and other related costs.

When Hugh O’Neill SC, for Cuprum, asked Mr Justice Brian McGovern on Friday to admit the case to the fast-track Commercial Court, Mr Fanning, for Mr Murray, objected.

Lease expired

Counsel said his client had served notice of intention to claim relief before the lease expired and is seeking a new tenancy in Circuit Court proceedings which should be first determined.

It was “cobblers” for Cuprum to suggest the Circuit Court case could take 18 months to hear, he said. His side also rejected claims the Circuit Court proceedings amounted to a delaying tactic by his client as part of an effort to get more compensation.

Mr O’Neill argued Mr Murray is an unlawful occupation and the Circuit Court proceedings were an effort by Mr Murray to get “leverage”. The receiver’s case was well in excess of the maximum value of Circuit Court cases and the Commercial Court should hear the case and fix dates for hearing his side’s application for injunctions against Mr Murray pending the full hearing.

Mr Justice McGovern said he would fast-track the case. Because he was anxious to avoid a situation where two courts with different jurisdictions were hearing similar issues, he would first hear on November 3rd Mr Fanning’s preliminary motion arguing the Commercial Court had no jurisdiction.

If Mr Fanning lost that “nuclear option” application, which if successful would have the effect of wiping out the receiver’s Commercial Court case, the judge said he would make directions for an early hearing of the application for injunctions against Mr Murray.