Restaurateur Jeremy King has said the future of his London restaurant the Wolseley is not in jeopardy despite its landlord pursuing legal action over unpaid rent.
According to the Financial Times, landlord STJ Investments is demanding Wolseley operator Corbin & King pay almost £1m of rent debt accrued during the coronavirus lockdowns.
The FT reports STJ has tried to evict the Wolseley through the courts, but King told The Caterer the restaurant was not under threat.
He said : "The Wolseley is not in any way in jeopardy. We are staggered by this move by the landlord but are fortunate enough to be able to resist. When I compare their behaviour to that of our other landlords - such as the Crown, Cadogan, Howard de Walden etc who have behaved with integrity - it just makes me angry contemplating how smaller operations than ours have to cope with these situations."
STJ has reportedly now filed court papers alleging the Wolseley had illegally sublet the premises because its lease was under a different name to that used to pay its rent, a claim Corbin & King described as "spurious".
Through its lawyers, STJ told the FT that it took court action as a "last resort" and that the Wolseley had "refused to pay any rent for the period when the restaurant was forced to close", despite being offered a "reasonable concession".
Corbin & King's other London restaurants include Brasserie Zedel, Soutine, the Delauney and Bellanger. The group is also facing a separate court battle with its insurance company Axa over the insurer's refusal to pay out to cover losses incurred as a result of the pandemic.
The hospitality industry has accrued around £2.5b in rent debt since the start of the pandemic last year but UKHospitality has said around one in five landlords are still unwilling to negotiate on payments.
The trade body has called on the government to provide a code of practice to guide rent discussions after the ban on commercial evictions was extended until March 2022.
STJ has been contacted for comment.