Bar staff stage lock-in to avoid eviction
MANAGEMENT and staff at a popular restaurant-bar last night vowed to barricade themselves inside after their landlord secured an eviction notice from the High Court.
All 21 staff members at Shebeen Chic on South Great George's Street in Dublin said they would ignore the eviction notice and continue to operate as usual even though the High Court had ordered them to vacate the premises by Monday.
"We are not going to close down. We're going to keep working. We're keeping the furniture, we're keeping ourselves here. It's business as usual as far as we're concerned," restaurant manager Orlagh Murphy told the Irish Independent last night.
Ms Murphy said the bar, which opened at the start of the recession in 2008, was now in the black having endured a rocky first year.
And they were willing to do whatever it took for the business to stay open in order to keep their jobs, she said.
"Most of the staff have built this bar and we're willing to fight to keep it," she said.
Staff were even willing to risk being cited for contempt of court in order to keep their jobs, she said, adding that staff were committed to staying overnight to prevent the locks from being changed in their absence.
The restaurant-bar, owned by well-known restaurateur Jay Bourke, has been in a protracted dispute with the landlord, Kenneally McAuliffe auctioneers. Landlord John Kenneally claims he is owed outstanding rent, which Mr Bourke denies. "There is quite a lot of money owed," Mr Kenneally told the Irish Independent last night.
"This (dispute) has been going on for the past two years."
While Mr Bourke does concede he fell behind in the annual €156,000 rent a few times during the first year of business, he denies there is outstanding rent to be paid now.
He said there had not been an issue of late payments since he re-negotiated the rent to €100,000 in 2009.
However, the High Court issued an eviction notice in July on foot of a clause in the rental agreement which allows either party to terminate the lease.
The eviction date was originally set for January 31, 2012. The company was also ordered to pay legal fees of €30,000 by September 1. Mr Bourke claims that because the payment was five days late, the company was ordered back to the court on September 21 when the eviction date was brought forward to October 10, 2011.
Ms Murphy said she personally pleaded with the landlord to ask for a stay on the notice to allow the restaurant time to relocate, but the landlord refused. "If the eviction stands, everyone loses, including them. It makes no sense," she added.
The staff -- along with TDs Joe Higgins, John Halligan and Richard Boyd Barrett -- have also appealed to the landlord asking him to reconsider.