Bookseller group Eason has become embroiled in yet another legal dispute with one of its landlords over a pandemic-related rent dispute.
Hurley Property Icav, a tax-efficient investment fund managed by Goodbody that is Eason’s landlord at the Athlone Town Centre, has filed a High Court action for debts allegedly owed by the retail chain.
It has sought a summary judgment against Eason, which effectively means it is seeking an immediate ruling from a judge on the basis of paper submissions only and without a trial.
It is at least the fourth such dispute in which Eason has become involved since the pandemic began. In November, it got into a dispute with Pat Doherty's Harcourt Developments in relation to its unit at Galway Shopping Centre. In August, it was sued by a company controlled by French investors who bought the retailer's landmark Shop Street branch in Galway in a €7.5 million sale-and-leaseback arrangement, although there have been talks to settle that row.
Last May, Eason revealed it had written to all its landlords seeking “substantial” rent reductions over the following year to help it cope with the pandemic. It has declined to comment directly on the rent dispute at Athlone, but said all of its actions were to ensure its business “survives”.
“As a matter of policy we do not comment on our commercial arrangements with any third party or ongoing legal proceedings. However, every action Eason has taken since the start of the current pandemic, which led to the temporary closure of all our stores and continues to have a significant impact on our business, has been designed to ensure the survival of the business and protect as many jobs as possible,” said Eason.
The summary judgment list of the High Court includes myriad rent disputes between landlords and retailers, as the pandemic and closure restrictions continue to take a toll on the sector. Retail industry representatives want the Government to devise a system of mandatory arbitration where retailers and landlords cannot reach deals.