SALT's former landlord is running an identical restaurant in its old space
SALT's owners say their landlord forced them out, then reopened the restaurant to run it himself.
盐SALT, a popular and much awarded contemporary restaurant in Beijing, closed just two weeks ago in preparation for a move to a new location, but prospective customers could be forgiven for missing that fact, as an exact duplicate has opened in its old location.
According to the owners, the restaurant was basically stolen by their landlord and a former employee, who colluded to force the restaurant out of its original space so they could reopen it and run it themselves.
"盐SALT Contemporary Cuisine has just become aware that ex-employee Lucy Wang (who had been working for SALT for seven years until she quit in February) and landlord Mr. Xin (who forced us to leave our location by doubling the rent and previously demanding extra payments for the past three years) will open their own restaurant today at 9 Jiangtai Xi Lu, pretending to be 盐SALT Contemporary Cuisine," the original owners said in a press release. "Please be aware that this restaurant is not 盐SALT Contemporary Cuisine. We closed our Lido branch two weeks ago. They have effectively stolen our business and are operating completely illegally."
The name 盐SALT Contemporary Cuisine is trademarked and patented by owner Gaby Alves, who is still operating the company’s catering business with executive chef Camila Betin. Alves said she contacted her lawyer after the fake SALT opened, but the lawyer will not return her calls and was apparently in on the plot with Xin and Wang the whole time.
Alves said she is looking for new representation to win back the restaurant’s name and all the associated items that were stolen along with it, but these sorts of suits can be difficult in China. According to the Global Times, ugly breakups between foreign and Chinese partners and legal fights over trademarks and stolen restaurants happen pretty regularly in Beijing.
Tyga’s money troubles could land Kylie Jenner in jail
Kylie Jenner has become so entwined in Tyga’s life that his financial issues may be seriously affecting her &mdash she could even get arrested because of them.
More: If Kylie Jenner & Tyga get engaged, Kim Kardashian won’t give her blessing
A Beverly Hills jeweler has sued Tyga for $200,000 over the unpaid purchase of a watch and chain in 2013. The jeweler’s legal team has ordered Jenner to show up in court to answer questions about Tyga’s finances, including where he got the money to give her a whole bunch of really lavish gifts.
What could make matters even worse is that one source close to Tyga told E! News that he and Jenner “share funds.” If they have a joint bank account, does that mean Jenner’s on the hook for paying Tyga’s debts?
While the two have been dating, Tyga has infamously given Jenner a Ferrari and a Mercedes Maybach for consecutive birthdays &mdash worth a combined total of about a quarter mil &mdash and jury is still out on how much he paid for the absolutely massive diamond promise ring he gave her, but it couldn’t have been pocket change, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, he’s faced other lawsuits over unpaid debts &mdash one judge ordered Tyga to pay $186,000 to a former landlord after he allegedly abandoned the property he was living in and trashed it. Just a few weeks after that, Tyga reached a settlement with a different landlord who claimed Tyga owed $480,285 after being evicted.
Jenner’s lawyers say she’s only being drawn into the mess because she obviously has money and can cover Tyga’s debts. “Going after the Kardashians is the only way he’ll get what he’s owed. Kylie is really upset about it,” one insider said about the dispute with Tyga’s jeweler.
Jenner has been ordered to appear in court by Oct. 6, and if she doesn’t, she’s already being threatened with a bench warrant, which could lead to her arrest.
Are you surprised that Kyle Jenner is getting pulled into Tyga’s financial issues?
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Garrett Popcorn Shops sued for alleged food safety violations, retaliatory termination
A former employee of Garrett Popcorn Shops says she was wrongfully terminated for speaking up about potential serious health and food safety issues at the company&rsquos manufacturing centers.
Aisha Putnam, former director of research and development for the chain, filed a federal lawsuit with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Tuesday, alleging that she was terminated after warning the company that it could fail federal food safety inspections.
The suit comes a year after Garrett Popcorn Shops filed its own lawsuit against the former research and development head, alleging in April 2019 that Putnam stole secret recipes and wrongfully downloaded more than 5,000 files in the days before her termination.
"We are surprised and saddened by the continued, disruptive conduct of this former team member, especially during this time of crisis," the company said in a statement. "We stand by our strong record of compliance with state and federal food safety requirements, and take all complaints seriously."
Putnam, in her suit against the company, says she was terminated after she repeatedly complained to supervisors about potential food safety violations, saying employees failed to wash hands and that an air conditioning unit in the manufacturing plant dripped condensation onto where food is cooked.
Top management repeatedly failed to address the violations, according to the lawsuit, and would &ldquoeven seem irritated by her complaints.&rdquo
Delhi: Landlord, his son allegedly killed tenant over suspicion of theft
New Delhi: A landlord and his son were arrested on Saturday for allegedly thrashing and killing a 44-year-old widow tenant over the suspicion of theft in Mehrauli, Delhi Police said.
The incident was reported on Saturday under the limits of Mehrauli police station.
The deceased identified as Manju Goel was living in a rented house in Mehrauli area for the last six months. She was working as a domestic help to earn her daily needs.
According to the family, her landlord Satish Pahwa accused Manju of stealing huge cash from the house, following which, the landlord thrashed her mercilessly.
"We got a call at around 8 am on Saturday. Her landlord informed that she (deceased) has committed theft in the house and they have beaten her," said Mukesh Jindal, the deceased's brother.
After receiving the call, Jindal with his wife and a friend reached there and found Manju in a very serious condition.
Manju's brother accused Satish Pahwa, his son and other members including maid of murdering his sister.
"Pahwa family accused my sister of stealing Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh in cash. Even they took Rs 60,000 of her savings claiming that they have recovered their money," Jindal said.
As per information shared by Jindal family, after the landlord informed them about Manju's condition, they took her to their residence and did not inform the police due to their catering business as they were busy in providing services to their customers.
They called a doctor for treatment at home, however, Manju succumbed to her injuries later in the day. Afterwards, the family informed the police.
Manju was survived by two children who live in Haryana's Rewari with her in-laws.
A case of murder has been registered against Satish and his son Pankaj in alleged connection with the case.
The body of the deceased has been sent for autopsy and further investigation is underway.
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Millionaire landlord 'starved to death' after 'being kept in foul, unhygienic cell'
A millionaire landlord allegedly seen living in a "foul, unhygienic cell" was found starved to death after a greedy carer wanted a slice of his wealthy estate, a jury was told.
Lynda and Wayne Rickard moved into a farmhouse on 60 acres of woodland, owned by James "Anthony" Sootheran, in 2006 and allegedly plotted to defraud his estate and the fortunes of his elderly mother Joy.
Lynda had previously admitted forging the will of 92-year-old Mrs Sootheran where she was set to gain half of the pensioner&aposs £1.5million estate.
Similarly, she conceded she had forged the will of the pensioner&aposs only son, where she would inherit a third of his £3.5million fortune when he died.
Just 18 months after Mrs Sootheran died having suffered with dementia, the severely malnourished body of her 59-year-old son was discovered in his home, having been under the care of Lynda Rickard, the jury heard.
The Rickards denied murdering their live-in landlord for financial gain on Thursday, but claimed it was the consequence of his own self-neglect and entirely coincidental to 62-year-old Lynda having forged his will.
Just six months before his frail body was discovered on March 18, 2014, Mr Sootheran&aposs cousin Richard Stubbs visited him at High Havens Farm, South Newington, Oxfordshire and was "horrified" at what he witnessed.
The court heard that on arrival, mother-of-three Lynda attempted to cancel the meeting as she had many times before but Mr Stubbs persisted and forced his way into Mr Sootheran&aposs bedroom upstairs.
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Oliver Saxby QC, prosecuting, said: "Both Anthony and his room, were in a terrible state. He was thin and frail. The bed linen was stained and looked like it had not been changed in months. A window pane was broken.
"In the corner, there was a pile of Anthony&aposs hair. There was no television in the room. There were no books, or magazines. In short, it was a cell. A foul, unhygienic, cell."
Mr Sootheran told Mr Stubbs that he never left his room and had last seen Lynda the previous evening, meaning he had not eaten or drunk that day, a jury heard.
"Anthony said he was worried about upsetting Lynda Rickard and scared of being evicted and placed in a mental health institution. He was totally dependent on Lynda Rickard and she was failing to feed him or take any care to ensure he had safe, clean living conditions," the prosecuting counsel added.
Mr Stubbs was so horrified that he took photos which the jury members were shown on Thursday, Reading Crown Court heard.
In addition to denying murder, Lynda Rickard, aged 62 years, of Banbury, also denies gross negligence manslaughter, fraud and two counts of perverting the course of justice.
Bearded American Wayne Rickard, 66, and of the same address as his wife, was additionally charged with causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult after Mr Sootheran was discovered deceased in his bedroom, fraud and perverting the course of justice.
Wayne Rickard also denies murder.
Michael Dunkley, 49, of Bloxham, stood charged with fraud in relation to the forged will of Mr Sootheran alongside 41-year-old Denise Neal, of Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire.
Shanda Robinson, 51, of Banbury, denied fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
2 men allegedly steal from family visiting son at Grady after home explosion
Police say two men stole a family’s belongings from Grady Memorial Hospital’s burn unit while the parents were visiting their injured son.
Credit: Channel 2 Action News
Credit: Channel 2 Action News
The family was there to visit Pat Sammons, who has burns on 80 percent of his body as the result of a June house explosion in Roswell, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Surveillance video from the hospital, obtained by Channel 2, allegedly shows two men rummaging through the father’s unattended bag, taking a laptop and phone out of it and then stealing the whole bag and a bag next to it. The theft happened July 7, and Pat Sammons’ phone was among the items stolen.
“That was pretty low to prey on people who are going through something as tragic as what the people at Grady Hospital (are going through), particularly the burn unit,” Kathy Sammons, Pat’s mother, told the news station.
Channel 2 reported that a code is needed to get into the family room inside the hospital’s burn ward. Grady told the news station it has changed the PIN code to enter the room due to this incident.
Credit: JOHN SPINK / [email protected]
Credit: JOHN SPINK / [email protected]
Pat Sammons was one of three men who were injured after a gas leak in their dryer caused their home on Pine Grove Pointe Drive to explode June 12. Win Reid and Brendan Morton, who was also severely burned, were Sammons' roommates.
A GoFundMe page was set up for the three men, and it had raised more than $43,000 as of Friday afternoon. A Caring Bridge page set up by one of the families has given daily updates on Sammons' and Morton's surgeries.
A Man Made His Own Meal Before Robbing And Trashing A Restaurant, According To Its Owner
It's pretty universally accepted rule that if you&rsquore planning to rob a place, you want to get in and out as fast as possible. One alleged thief apparently didn&rsquot get the memo, because he made himself at home at a restaurant before robbing it.
The robbery apparently went down around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday at Nam Café in College Station, TX, according to KBTX. Nam Café owner Phuc Nguyen said he has surveillance video that shows the robber stayed inside the restaurant for almost two hours.
And he made good use of his time. While he was there, the suspect allegedly cooked some food, had something to drink, and generally chilled out, as one does: &ldquoHe then took our hard-earned money. He took it from our cash register. He also took utensils from the kitchen and other items. It's just very frustrating to see your business get broke into like this," Nguyen said.
The suspected robber also forgot another rule of burglary: He left his face uncovered. "We're just lucky he didn't cover his face. We got a very clear picture of him," Nguyen said.
As if having a pre-robbery hang at a restaurant wasn't bad enough, Nguyen said the suspect also left the stove on when he left the restaurant. "It could have burned the place down," Nguyen said.
Nam Café had a little fun with the whole thing in a Facebook post. &ldquoHi there! We know our food is good and our store is clean, that was why you made yourself comfortable at our place for about 2 hours," the post read. "You cooked, ate, drank, trashed our kitchen then took our hard earned money! Next time, come during our business hours so we can cook you a proper meal!&rdquo it concluded before encouraging people to share the post and hashtagging "#letsmakethisguyfamous."
Nguyen acknowledged to KBTX that his food is pretty tasty, but he urged other would-be diners to eat at his restaurant like normal people. "If you want a good meal, come on in. Do it on regular time and I'll make you a meal, the right way," he said.
Ellison settles lawsuits against 2 landlords who failed to provide utilities to tenants
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has resolved lawsuits brought by his office against two Minnesota landlords who failed to provide their tenants utilities.
In a Wednesday news release, Ellison announced that both lawsuits filed by the state were settled by consent judgments in their respective county courts.
In the first case, an Aitkin County landlord allegedly didn’t respond to tenants’ numerous requests to refill the propane tank that heated the rented home. In the second case, a Lyon County landlord allegedly did not respond when his tenant’s electricity went out for a long enough period that the food in his refrigerator spoiled.
Ellison said Wednesday that his office has received nearly 1,000 housing complaints in the past several months since the coronavirus struck Minnesota, with hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans losing their jobs, and evictions and most utility cutoffs ordered to pause. Ellison said the “vast majority” of landlords have voluntarily complied with Minnesota laws and Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency executive orders on tenant rights.
“Having a safe, affordable roof over your head is essential to living with dignity and respect,” Ellison said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to protecting people’s lives.”
Batali’s On Boil With Landlord Of Restaurant
The chef Mario Batali was seated before a small table covered in white linen, speaking face-forward to a television camera, one afternoon this past winter.
“We’re shooting to make Del Posto a four-star restaurant in New York City,” he said in the deliberate, teacherly tone he has perfected as a television chef, preparing the footage that would serve as an introduction to Mario, Full Boil, a documentary special for the Food Network about his latest restaurant venture.
It had never been done before, he explained, because Italian food was regarded as too simple. But with Frank Bruni as The New York Times’ new restaurant critic (and therefore arbiter of the fates of even Manhattan’s most powerful chefs), he must have reasoned that he had a chance. The paper’s former Rome bureau chief had become a connoisseur of Italian cuisine during his time abroad.
And yet the food itself was not all. The design of the restaurant, which occupied a choice spot in the huge old Nabisco factory building on 10th Avenue between 15th and 16th streets, would also be an important factor in getting Mr. Bruni’s approval. Del Posto, the documentary seems to suggest, was built for Mr. Bruni.
By 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, they had their answer: three stars, not four. To be sure, a very, very positive review, batting away ambient chatter that the restaurant was an overambitious folly (“Dishtar” was Mr. Bruni’s coinage). And the build-out? Spacious, but it “can seem a bit like a hotel lobby,” Mr. Bruni declared.
But nine days before he got to reveal his ambition to television viewers on Feb. 18, when the documentary aired, Mr. Batali had found that someone else entirely might hold the fate of his restaurant in his hands when his landlord slapped an eviction notice on the restaurant’s door.
Last July, the private equity firm Somerset Partners dropped $294 million on the 11-story building while Del Posto was under construction. According to Mr. Batali, Keith Rubenstein, a director of equity investments at Somerset Partners, called him five months later, as the restaurant opened, to complain that elements of the restaurant’s construction—documented heavily in the Food Network program—violated the terms of the restaurant’s lease, which had been signed with the building’s previous owners, Chelsea Market founder Irwin Cohen and his partners at Angelo Gordon & Company.
“Right when we opened the restaurant, they called and talked to us about a few things,” Mr. Batali said. “We didn’t understand what they were talking about, so we just said, ‘Yeah, we’ll talk to you after we get this baby opened.’”
Mr. Rubenstein wasn’t satisfied with that, and on Feb. 9, he filed court papers to initiate eviction proceedings against Del Posto.
“I’ve never been in a battle like this,” Mr. Batali said.
A “celebrity chef gone wild,” the court papers filed by Somerset Partners call Mr. Batali, whose unflattering attributes allegedly include “buccaneering conduct” and “swashbuckling disregard” for other tenants.
“We weren’t malicious or swashbuckling or buccaneering,” said Mr. Batali, dismissing “all that pirate stuff.
“In the end, we have a 25-year lease. We’re going to be their tenants for a long time.”
In the neighborhood’s recent boom, Mr. Batali understands that his $140,000-a-month lease is a bargain.
“It’s undervalued, which is why they’re so focused on it right now,” said Mr. Batali. “When we signed that lease three years ago, there were crack junkies and very little else on that block. That’s why we got a deal. People didn’t think it was such a great neighborhood. Now, it’s all of a sudden looking really shiny.”
In the papers, Somerset Partners allege that there is illegal duct work the use of a sidewalk vault space to store the restaurant’s HVAC and various equipment without a permit the distribution of fliers on the sidewalk for the restaurant’s $29 valet parking, also without permission and the placement of exterior light fixtures in such a way as to obstruct security cameras.
“The previous landlord had granted us that stuff verbally, but never really wrote it down,” said Mr. Batali. “I’m sure this is just a minor and temporary thing. Whatever Irwin [Cohen] told them is exactly what he told us, and they’ll figure it out.”
Mr. Batali’s optimism has its bases. There is indeed a Yellowstone injunction staying the eviction proceedings. What’s more, extensive video footage of the construction of the space—a major focus of the Food Network special—shows his previous landlord touring the construction site and conferring with Mr. Batali, his partners Lidia and Joseph Bastianich, and his architect on modifications to the space. Mr. Bastianich thinks this footage will show that a verbal agreement was in place with Mr. Batali’s old landlord to make the modifications to the space.
“We have an incredible amount of footage of the prior owners walking through the space, directing things to be done,” said Mr. Bastianich. “They effectively did the project with us.”
Although Mr. Cohen declined several calls for comment from The Observer, he may eventually have to tell it to a judge.
“We’re going to subpoena him,” said Mr. Bastianich.
Mr. Rubenstein isn’t so sure that Mr. Cohen’s testimony—or the footage from the documentary—will make a difference.
“When we bought the building, they signed an estoppel certificate saying that there are no oral agreements and that the lease is in effect,” said Mr. Rubenstein. Mr. Bastianich admits to signing an estoppel agreement, but claims there is a revised one with his comments on it that should be used.
Mr. Batali accepts that an agreement was signed, but he also brushes off the incident by saying that “somehow my partner Joe’s signature got on a piece of paper that maybe he hadn’t looked at.”
IN MARIO: FULL BOIL, THERE IS MUCH FOOTAGE of Mr. Batali in his signature orange clogs, hopping onto his Vespa and driving to his several restaurants, book signings, kitchen-product roll-outs, food tastings and meetings with investors.
That’s when he’s not filming one of his three television shows.
But much of the film documents the construction of Del Posto in the bottom of an old factory in a once-gritty corner of West Chelsea. Through much of this portion of the film, Mr. Cohen and his partners are seen riding along with Mr. Batali as the construction progresses. In the documentary, several calamities arise and are overcome—at one point, the Hudson River flows inside and holds up work on the foundation, potentially jeopardizing the whole building—but none of them arise from disputes with Mr. Cohen.
“We have documented footage of Irwin [Cohen] walking through—not these Somerset guys,” said Mr. Batali. “Everyone is walking through, and everyone knows what is going on. It’s not like there’s some Pink Panther music and I’m sneaking through the night, stealing some ductwork space. It’s pretty straightforward.”
So it is to Mr. Rubenstein as well.
“This is like the tail wagging the dog,” said Mr. Rubenstein as he stood outside his 11-story building.
Construction was already underway in the space next-door to Del Posto, originally sought by another celeb-de-cuisine, Tom Colicchio, for one of his ’wichcraft chain of restaurants. (He is now holding off on plans to build the high-end sandwich shop in the retail space next to Del Posto, according to reports in the New York Post, until the two sides reach a settlement. However, Mr. Colicchio’s much-hyped Craftsteak is still scheduled to open in the building by May.)
The would-be Colicchio space, Mr. Rubenstein alleges, is just one of the neighboring spaces suffering from Mr. Batali’s lease infringements—and not by any means even the most important.
“On the other side of this wall is Del Posto,” said Mr. Rubenstein, standing inside the retail space next-door. “This boxed-in duct is their duct that houses their air conditioning or heat. The reason they put it here was they didn’t want to put it on the other side of the wall. They realized if they had to run their duct—it’s a big duct—they would lose their mezzanine. At some point in time, they decided to do it here.”
“It’s as if someone rents an apartment on the seventh floor and decides they want to put their kitchen on the eighth floor,” he said later.
“This is a major building with major tenants,” continued Mr. Rubenstein. “As long as we’re the owners, they’re going to abide by their lease.”
Indeed, there are some major tenants, including Moët Hennessey U.S.A., College Sports Television, Level 3 Communications, the New York State Police, various mysterious federal-government agencies which occupy the top four floors, and Lehman Brothers.
It was to cater to Lehman that Somerset invited its most recent confrontation with Mr. Batali and his partners.
In order to clean out concrete dust in the electrical room, the building’s power was shut down on a recent Saturday night—obviously, the busiest for any restaurant.
Mr. Rubenstein claims that Del Posto was given advance notice in case they wanted to bring in back-up generators.
“The reason it was done on a Saturday was because Lehman Brothers requested it,” said Mr. Rubenstein. “It was better for them to arrange for their backup generation, and to have all of their consultants here to make sure they didn’t wipe out all their data. It was Del Posto’s cause, and it was done for the convenience of the 590,000 square feet in the building.”
“They had to upgrade the electrical thing,” said Mr. Batali. Although upset with the decision to do it on a Saturday, Mr. Batali also accepts that Somerset Partners own the building and have a right to make changes. “They had to do what they had to do.”
As the recriminatory back-and-forth continues, the March 9 court date, which could decide the fate of Mr. Batali’s new restaurant, is starting to seem inevitable.
Indeed, while it would seem to make sense to patch things up amicably without prolonged litigation, the two sides have not come together to play nicely.
Certainly, the two sides haven’t met around a table at Del Posto to sort things out over a nice bottle of Costamagna Dolcetto.
In fact, Mr. Rubenstein has never eaten there, though he has eaten at Babbo and Lupa, both before and after becoming Mr. Batali’s landlord.
Mr. Bastianich claims that Mr. Rubenstein, and his partners, were treated well at various restaurants, with “three months of getting them reservations at Babbo, buying free deserts [and] free wine.”
“We have all documentation on this—reservation requests here, there, for their parties,” said Mr. Bastianich. “I was like their concierge. Then came the requests for unlimited access to all the restaurants—not just Del Posto, but an across-the-board 40 percent discount.”
“We’ve heard different variations of that before,” said Warren Estis, a lawyer for Somerset Partners. “Basically, there’s no truth to it. [Mr. Rubenstein] never asked, but even at a 40 percent discount he’d be overpaying.
“It’s totally ludicrous to think that all this stems from [the fact that] he didn’t get a discount,” Mr. Estis continued. “Meanwhile, they’re violating the lease right and left.”
“After a $12 million investment [and] three years of my life, I have a 25-year lease,” said Mr. Bastianich. “This is the restaurant that I was supposed to ride into the sunset on. I’m not going anywhere.”
IF MR. BATALI AND HIS PARTNERS WERE naïve to let so much of their understanding with their previous landlord go undocumented, Somerset Partners also seems to be operating one star above their previous operations.
Managing relationships with their tenants, even when their needs conflict, is a big part of being a commercial property owner in Manhattan. And that’s something that’s pretty new to Somerset Partners.
The Nabisco building purchase—which, adding up the historical significance, extensive technological improvements and, most importantly, the sought-after location (which includes rezoning for luxury residential units, trendy meatpacking-district clubs, other celebrity-chef-run restaurants, and adjacency to the soon-to-be-glammed-up High Line)—was astute, to be sure it is also their first-ever purchase in Manhattan.
Last July, when Somerset Partners completed the all-cash purchase of the building, the company’s real-estate portfolio was composed of a few thousand apartments, scattered far from Gotham, in smaller cities like Atlanta, Little Rock, Ark., and Wichita, Kan. Subsequently, they made one more big Northeast purchase, acquiring a commercial building on K Street in Washington, D.C.
With Somerset Partners and Del Posto having an office in the same building, one might assume that the feuding sides could get together outside the courtroom. Apparently, one meeting was cancelled, and a second was either cancelled or never confirmed. It depends on whom you ask.
“We had a meeting set up in which the lawyers and the clients would be present,” said Mr. Estis. “It was a 2 o’clock meeting. At approximately 10 after 2, we get a phone call from the attorneys, when we’re all here—Keith changed his vacation plans [and] I rearranged court appearances—to tell us they are not showing up.
“To say the least, we were all furious,” Mr. Estis added. “It’s a continuing arrogance on their part. I don’t even think [Mr. Batali] knows what’s going on. He’s so busy running from one TV studio to the other.”
According to Mr. Estis, they never called to reschedule, but Mr. Batali claims that they did, for March 3.
“We had set up a meeting with one of our investors, Henry Kravis, and the main guys at Somerset, Keith [Rubenstein] and his partner,” said Mr. Batali. “They just cancelled it. They said they wanted us to send them a game plan of what we wanted to achieve in that meeting.”
The clock is running out on them: If the two sides reach the court date and Mr. Batali loses, the restaurant will have to be shut down for major renovations, none of which is likely to add to the place’s design. The reopening will be as tough as the opening.
But then, three stars, at least, from Mr. Bruni will already be lining their pockets.
Maybe a redesign would give them another stab at a fourth?
“We’re ecstatic,” said Mr. Bastianich. “We’re going to spend another year working to try and get four. It’s an opportunity and a responsibility.”
Landlord, Here Are Your Leased Premises Back – How Do You Like Their Condition?
What should be the rules for the condition of leased premises when “returned” at the end of the lease term? Who should own the real property improvements? What about abandoned or allegedly abandoned personal property?
Ruminations thinks, in its vision of a “proper” world, the answers should be: (a) the tenant should return the premises in good condition and not have to restore it back to “day 1” (b) in the normal situation, real property improvements should belong to the landlord and (c) as to tenant’s personal property, it should have a reasonable opportunity to get it out, should repair the effects of the personal property having been there, and if the tenant doesn’t, it should reimburse the landlord for doing what the tenant should have done. Two caveats: (x) every deal is different, so don’t ever throw these “ideals” in our face and (y) there are caveats and details below.
As to the “return” condition at the end of the lease’s term (or sooner), landlords’ form leases (for use with tenants having little bargaining power) often read like this:
Tenant shall return the Leased Premises at the end of the Term in the same condition they were in at the commencement, subject to reasonable wear and tear, and damage by fire and the elements.
In a tenant’s form of lease (where the tenant has bargaining power), you’re more likely to see:
Tenant agrees to deliver to Landlord physical possession of the Leased Premises upon the termination of the Term in good condition, ordinary wear and tear, damage by fire or other casualty or damages from any other cause (not directly attributable to the negligence of Tenant unless covered by Landlord’s insurance) excepted.
In our view, the only reason for the difference in concept is “bargaining power” because this is a purely economic issue. There is no moral right or wrong. Either the rent “covers” whatever work a landlord might need to do after the tenant leaves or it doesn’t. Given that the rent is really set by the marketplace (what is the rent across the street?), what the marketplace is saying is that the (already higher) rent paid by weak bargaining power-tenants doesn’t cover this expense, but the (lower) rent paid by strong tenants does. That, of course, shows that any other explanation is nonsense. Why should a higher rent-paying tenant have to restore its premises, while a lower rent-paying tenant doesn’t have to do so? With that as background, it seems to us that all the protestations by a landlord to the effect of: “but, I’ll have to do this I’ll have to do that,” mean little.
A weak bargaining power-tenant is simply at the mercy of its landlord because, if the landlord wants to keep the new(er) restrooms and fire sprinkler system, but not the back manager’s office, it will tell the tenant – “I’ll save you some money don’t rip out the rest rooms and put the old ones back in just take down the office you built.” That’s more evidence that the landlord didn’t have the cost of “restoring back to the way it was 20 years ago” already in the lease, because the landlord couldn’t have known at the time of signing whether it wanted 50% of the tenant’s improvements upon surrender. In fact, landlords who fear that their tenants will respond, “I’ll tear out the restrooms and put the old toilets back in [yes, I found old toilets and lighting fixtures at a junkyard], and I’ll give you back the sprinkler-less space I got when I moved in, just like the lease says,” will use a lease provision like:
Tenant shall quit and surrender the Leased Premises in good and orderly condition and repair (reasonable wear and tear, and damage by fire or other casualty excepted) and shall deliver and surrender the Leased Premises to the Landlord peaceably, together with all alterations, additions, and improvements in, to or on the Leased Premises made by Tenant which Landlord elects to retain. Landlord reserves the right to require Tenant, at Tenant’s cost and expense, to remove any alterations or improvements installed by the Tenant and restore the Leased Premises to good condition, which right shall survive the surrender and the delivery of the Leased Premises as provided hereunder.
There are a fair number of general exceptions to the underlying premise behind these thoughts, best explained by pointing out that special purpose improvements are a “whole different thing.” You want examples? – How about bank vaults, sloped or tiered floors or theater seating? Make that deal right up front!
By the way, Ruminations thinks a good formulation is that the tenant must return the leased premises, “broom clean, in good condition, and free of occupants, fair wear and tear … excepted.”
Surrendering the leased premises at the end of the lease’s term or at any other time should not act as a waiver of the tenant’s prior maintenance and repair obligations unless that is the express agreement of the parties. Thus, if the tenant has failed to keep something in the condition the lease required that thing to be kept, the landlord should retain the right to seek damages by reason of the tenant’s particular default. Most often, these ongoing tenant obligations will be subsumed into the general concept of returning the leased premises in good condition, but where there were specific, higher standards required for certain items in the lease, the tenant should be held to its promise to keep those standards. Case law is a little confused over this point, and it might be wise for leases to cover this point explicitly by saying that the obligation to return the leased premises in good condition does not excuse tenant for failing to satisfy its maintenance, repair, and maintenance obligations under the lease. For example, if the lease requires a tenant to replace the HVAC unit every 10 years and it surrenders the leased premises at the end of 15 years without ever having replaced the HVAC unit, it shouldn’t be able to get off the hook by demonstrating that the 15- year old HVAC unit was in good condition and fine working order. That wasn’t the bargain.
When it comes to “who should own” any real property improvements actually put in by a tenant, it seems that all of the important “default” stuff in the world point to their being owned by a landlord. A building’s property insurance doesn’t distinguish between one wall and another or the old sink on the left from the new sink on the right. It doesn’t care who paid for the item or work. You have to do something special to exclude the supplemental HVAC unit from the property owner’s insurance policy. Similarly, the owner’s mortgagee is going to grab all improvements as part of the collateral. If there is a taking by eminent domain, it doesn’t matter who did the work, the owner gets the check.
Then, there are some practical issues, illustrated as follows. Suppose the tenant replaces all of the rest room fixtures (rest room fixtures being items of real property), why would any one think that, at the end of the lease term, the tenant would be taking a toilet with it and leaving a hole in the floor? When a tenant moves a wall between the front of the store and the storage area, wouldn’t the landlord be losing something (the old wall) if it didn’t get to own the new wall.
Why should it matter who did the work or paid the bill? Why would there be a difference between the tenant doing the work itself and the tenant paying its landlord to have the very same work done?
Ruminations concedes that “tax consequences” are often hard to figure out. Our default thinking has always been: “satisfy the business deal first then, see what the tax effects might be and adjust the business deal, if really desired.” Yes, we think the business deal has primacy and if the tax effect is not central to the business deal, don’t start by crafting to make the taxes “happy.”
When it comes to a tenant leaving its personal property behind, either because the property is obsolete or because it would cost the tenant more to remove the property than the property is worth, Ruminations has a maxim: “Don’t make your problem into my problem.” Landlords should not have to get stuck with junk its tenant doesn’t want. Of course, the parties can make an agreement otherwise, up front, when they sign the lease. And, a landlord might volunteer to take the leftover personal property (think – pizza oven), but those possibilities rhyme with “consensual.” [Well, not really. Apparently, we have to work on our phonemic awareness skills.]
As a default (no, not a tenant’s default), a tenant should have its property “outta there” before the lease’s term expires, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable for a tenant to have an extra ten days (or so) if the lease is terminated before its expected expiration date. Forfeiture is an extremely harsh penalty and even courts should be willing to tell that to a landlord. Of course, the parties can negotiate over whether the tenant can have extra time to remove its personal property.
If a tenant doesn’t get all of its stuff out of the leased premises by the time it should have been removed, a question arises as to whether the property has been abandoned (meaning it has become ownerless and whoever gets to it first gets to keep it. Certainly, given the landlord’s control over the empty premises, that would be the landlord. If that were the end of the story, then we wouldn’t ramble on.
If you call the property “abandoned,” then what right do you have to charge the abandoning tenant to remove the property? What not charge the property’s owner? We guess that couldn’t happen because the property, by definition, is ownerless. So, to Ruminations, if a landlord wants to charge its tenant for removal and disposal costs, it shouldn’t be calling the property “abandoned.” If that is intellectually correct, then if the landlord asserts a right to pick and choose among the various items its tenant left behind, and wants to call the tenant’s failure to remove its property – a “default,” then the landlord has a duty to mitigate damages. Implicit is that mitigation is to make a commercially reasonable effort to “sell” the property and to “pay” the tenant for the fair market value of what it, the landlord, keeps for itself. Yes, we know this is heresy, but on an intellectual basis this makes sense. To further this “rumination,” it would then seem that any lease provision to the contrary should be tested against the criteria used to validate a liquidated damages provision.
Tenants, you can’t leave holes in the floor! Leases typically say that a tenant shall remove its personal property and repair the damage caused by its removal. A better formulation might be that the tenant has to repair damage caused by the property’s “removal, presence, and initial installation.” That would mean that when the tenant removes its exterior store sign and the now uncovered wall behind the sign doesn’t match the rest of the wall, the wall has to be fixed. You can create your own examples.
Lastly, for this rant, don’t forget that certain kinds of property might need some forethought while the lease is being negotiated and the parties are still lovey-dovey. One example should be enough. What do you do with the floor studs when you remove theater seats? Do you cut ‘em “close” or do you drill them out and fill with epoxy? Perhaps, something in the middle. Work those things out before the seats are out and the floor is unusable and expensive to restore.