Dispute over Dunnes Stores failure to reopen in Cork shopping centre

Phyluma Ltd has sued Dunnes Stores (Georges Street) Unlimited Co claiming it is in breach of a "keep open" clause its anchor tenancy for a Dunnes clothing outlet at the Merchant's Quay Shopping Centre in Cork
Dispute over Dunnes Stores failure to reopen in Cork shopping centre

High court reporters

A dispute over Dunnes Stores alleged failure to reopen one of its anchor stores after the lifting of the pandemic closure rules for non-essential retail outlets may be resolved later this month, the Commercial Court heard.

Phyluma Ltd has sued Dunnes Stores (Georges Street) Unlimited Co claiming it is in breach of a "keep open" clause its anchor tenancy for a Dunnes clothing outlet at the Merchant's Quay Shopping Centre in Cork.

Dunnes denies it is in breach.

Pyluma claims that notwithstanding the permanent lifting in May 2021 of the Covid era prohibitions on non-essential outlets, Dunnes has "failed without meaningful explanation" to re-open Merchant's Quay.

It also says Dunnes removed all its stock from the unit and this has left it in “an obviously vacant state which is unattractive” for both customers and for the smaller tenants in the centre.

Tony Leonard, director of Pyluma, said in an affidavit he has spent over a year in "unyielding efforts" to get the store reopened, including through numerous communications and meetings with Dunnes' senior representative Anne Heffernan, but he had not succeeded in doing so.

When Mr Leonard negotiated with another retailer to take up the lease on half of the anchor unit, he said that Ms Heffernan changed her mind about supporting this proposal.

He said Ms Heffernan then said Dunnes were considering an "alternative offering" for its Merchant's Quay unit though did not give any details of the alternative.

When Phyluma threatened legal action, Dunnes gave no timeframe for the reopening of the anchor unit.

Mr Leonard said Dunnes also denied Phyluma's claims that the reduction of footfall in the shopping centre, which led to tenants of other smaller units leaving, was due to the closure of Dunnes.

Dunnes also claimed there was a failure by Phyluma to invest in the centre for a significant period of time.

On Monday, Micheál D O'Connell SC, for Phyluma, applied to Mr Justice Denis McDonald for admission of the case to the High Court's fast track commercial division.

However, he said he was seeking an adjournment in circumstances where Dunnes had indicated it will reopen after October 27 next.

Martin Hayden SC, for Dunnes, said there was a significant issue about the delay in bringing the case. His client also "took exception" to a number of the claims made by Phyluma.

The judge adjourned the case to next month.

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