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Bewley's will fight bid to take away its lease

Legendary tea rooms to 'aggressively defend' Grafton Street presence

BEWLEYS on Grafton Street, the landmark mecca for Dublin's coffee lovers and city shoppers, is to "aggressively defend" a High Court attempt to remove its lease.

If the cafe's landlord succeeds in removing the lease, Bewleys would no longer be able to trade from the premises it has occupied since 1927. The current 35-year lease runs until 2022.

Bewleys last night confirmed that it is being sued in the commercial court, a division of the High Court, by Ickendel, the landlord of its flagship store.

Landlord Ickendel Limited, which ranks property magnate John Ronan of Treasury Holdings as a major shareholder, has alleged that Bewley's is in breach of its obligations under the lease of the Grafton Street premises and is seeking the forfeiture of the lease.

"Bewley's will aggressively defend the current proceedings, as it has successfully done in the past, and is committed to maintaining its business and presence on Grafton Street," a spokesperson for the company said. "Bewley's acknowledges the strong support and goodwill it has received from employees, customers and the many other interested parties in the Grafton Street premises and business."

The row over the lease is the latest twist in a bitter battle over the iconic tearooms. It stems from a failed attempt by Ickendel to restrain Bewleys from carrying out works at the Grafton Street site last year.

Ickendel, the owner of the site, was granted a temporary injunction by the High Court in April 2005 restraining the Campbell Bewley Group (CBG) from renovating the premises.

Ickendel claimed that the building was a protected structure requiring specialist planning permission, but the case collapsed when Dublin City Council planning officials said that no planning permission for the works was required.

Those proceedings followed the rejection by CBG of a ?6m offer by Treasury Holdings for the lease.

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Bewleys, which had closed its flagship store temporarily in November 2004, refused to sell the lease as it wanted to maintain trading operations. Following the rejection of the deal, Bewleys opened its revamped premises in May 2005.

The extent of the breakdown in relations between Bewleys and Ickendel was revealed last year in the injunction proceedings.

John Bruder, property manager, Ickendel Ltd, said he had never encountered such a situation where a tenant had undertaken such extensive works without seeking landlord's consent.

In a court affidavit, he said it was incorrect to state that Ickendel intentionally delayed bringing the court application in order to cause maximum financial loss to CBG.

An eleventh-hour attempt to salvage the dispute will be staged next week in advance of the hearing, scheduled for February.

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