The developers of a €30 million hotel in Dublin city centre claim the project is being delayed because of a dispute over a laneway between the hotel and a Chinese restaurant, the Commercial Court has heard.
Cathedral Leisure Ltd hopes to start work on the new four-star hotel on the former Boland's Bakery site at Capel Street/Mary Street Little early next year.
Cathedral says that plan could be delayed by a claim by the owners of number 27 Little Mary Street, Fergus McCabe and Brian Stynes, both of Ballyroan Crescent, Rathfarnham, Dublin.
The two men are landlords of number 27 which is used as the Bullet Duck and Dumplings restaurant and is operated by Sisu Entertainment and Fainne Entertainment. Xiao Hua Wen is a director of those companies and is a defendant in the action along with the companies and the landlords.
Mr McCabe and Mr Stynes say a doorway to the laneway has been in place since 1991, has been accessed over the years by people to come in and out of the rear of number 27 and forms part of the permission for the restaurant premises for preventing a fire hazard. Cathedral has no right to block up the doorway and this amounts to trespass, they say.
On Monday, Mr Justice David Barniville admitted the case to the fast-track Commercial Court on the application of Cathedral. Mr McCabe and Mr Stynes’ lawyer objected on grounds of delay in bringing the proceedings and lack of urgency. There was no appearance for the other three defendants.
The judge was told earlier injunction proceedings by Cathedral had not proceeded after the operators of the restaurant confirmed they did not require to use the laneway as a fire exit.
The judge was satisfied the issue of its use as a fire exit had been sufficiently ventilated in the injunction proceedings and was different to what is now being claimed, an assertion by the landlords of a right-of-way through the lane.
The injunction application did not deprive Cathedral of its right to bring these proceedings. He approved directions on how the case should proceed and said it could come back in December.
In an affidavit seeking entry to the commercial list, Cathedral group finance director, James Sinton, said the company bought the site for €4.4 million in 2017. The title documentation does not evidence any right of way or easement as alleged by the landlords between the hotel and the restaurant building, he said.
In June 2018 a doorway niche which had been entirely boarded up had been opened and a door had been installed.
The vendors of the hotel site property, who were still in the building pending the hotel construction, confirmed no one had sought consent for the opening. It was boarded up again, Mr Sinton said.
In August 2019, it was opened again and appeared to provide access to the restaurant kitchen. It was boarded up again by Cathedral with concrete breeze blocks.
Last April, the blocks had been demolished and a wooden door installed with an air extraction fan inserted into it. Stickers were put on the door saying “fire exit, keep clear”.
One of the landlords, Mr McCabe, has confirmed he was the one who demolished the wall and put up the stickers, Mr Sinton said.
Injunction proceedings were brought which ultimately did not proceed because the restaurant operator confirmed it had never been used as a fire exit and did not require it for that purpose.
The landlords however are asserting a right-of-way through the lane, which Cathedral denies, and says is an unlawful interference and trespass on its property.
Mr Sinton said this assertion could have a significant impact on the development and the entire design of the hotel may have to be revisited if such a right exists.
While there are valid rights of way relating to other properties which are being accommodated within the hotel development, the claims of the restaurant landlords are wholly disputed, he said.
It is a matter of commercial urgency that this be determined as soon as possible as it could impact on the financing of the project, he said.