A four-day hearing for S Franses Limited v Cavendish Hotel (London) Limited is scheduled for May 24 in the High Court.
The case regards a dispute over the lease and rent at 80 Jermyn Steet, St James’s, where the gallery has operated for more than 25 years.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2018 ordered the landlord to grant a new lease. However Franses believes its landlord still wishes the property to be vacated and is disputing the terms of the new lease and believes the landlord is acting unreasonably in not agreeing to a rent reduction for the period the gallery was closed during the pandemic.
The long - running disagreement began when Franses’ 25-year lease at 80 Jermyn Street came to an end in 2015. The Cavendish Hotel (a subsidiary of Singapore’s CapitaLand) did not grant Franses a new lease and instead said it planned to redevelop the space into two shops.
After earlier decisions and appeals, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of the tenant on December 4, 2018.
However, since that decision, no new lease has been agreed and S Franses is “holding over” from its old lease. The terms and rent of the new lease are the substance of the continued dispute and S Franses hopes to negotiate reduced rent because of the coronavirus pandemic and the decline in rental values in the area.
S Franses director Simon Franses said: “The landlord still wishes us to vacate and in the past two years it has not been possible to reach agreement or to begin refurbishment of the premises. We have had to incur further five-figure legal costs since the Supreme Court decision in 2018.”
Franses added: “Unfortunately, it has also not been possible to reach agreement on any rent holiday or rent abatement with CapitaLand during the lockdown. In fact, the landlord is demanding punitive interest on arrears.
“The case may be one of the first post-Covid to address the extent of the decline of rental values. Six of the immediately adjacent retail premises in Jermyn Street are now vacant or empty. Of those that remain many tenants have been granted rent holidays by landlords such as The Crown Estate.”
James Cooksey, director of central London at The Crown Estate, said it is “focusing support… on the smaller independent [businesses]. For the most part that has been in the form of rent-free periods or, in this last quarter, 50% of normal rent.”
S Franses is represented by David Cooper & Co and barrister Joanne Wicks QC.
A representative for Cavendish Hotel said: “We are unable to provide further information at this stage.”