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Disputes Between Businesses And Landlords Linger After The Pandemic


A new strain of COVID, even more contagious than the previous ones, may be making its way to the DC area, but people are going to approach things differently.  No one seems especially interested in holing up at home and doom scrolling for an entire winter or partying just to be defiant.  This time, come what may, the people of the DMV are eager for continuity at whatever level of in-person interaction they consider safe.  Small business owners may be worried about the uncertainty, but uncertainty is the norm when you are operating a small business.  The last three years have certainly been a challenge for small businesses, especially restaurants.  There is no single right answer as far as what business owners should do.  Some business owners chose to negotiate, borrow, and pivot until better days arrived, while others got out of the business before things got really bad.  In either case, the financial struggles linger.  If your small business is still struggling with debts left over from the days of the COVID lockdown, contact a Washington DC small business lawyer.

Restaurant That Went Out of Business During Lockdown Stuck in Ongoing Dispute With Landlord

Before the pandemic, David and Carolyn Marquis operated their restaurant, the Chesapeake Brewing Co., out of a space they rented from John Critzos II.  Maryland ordered all restaurants to cease in-person dining operations between March and May 2020, during which time Mr. and Mrs. Marquis determined that their restaurant, which generated a lot of its revenue from alcoholic beverage sales and in-person dining, could not survive as a carry-out establishment or operate within the restrictions that Maryland imposed when it allowed in-person dining to resume in June 2020.  At first the tenants tried to negotiate payment terms with the landlord, but he was unable to offer a feasible solution.  They notified Critzos in writing that they were terminating the lease and then removed their property from the premises, so that he would be able to lease the space to a new tenant if one became available.

Meanwhile, the legal dispute continues, with Critzos claiming that David and Carolyn Marquis owe him $80,000 in unpaid rent.  The tenants claim that their early termination of the lease does not constitute a breach of contract because they only walked away from the agreement because of “frustration of purpose or legal impossibility.”  Critzos argues that the courts should not accept this argument in this case because the period during which restaurants were legally not allowed to operate was brief.  The key to preventing disputes like this is written contracts that spell out everything to the last detail and to work with a business law attorney at the first sign of trouble.  If you are about to sign a commercial lease agreement, you should review it with a lawyer first.

Reach Out to Us for Help

A business law attorney can help you resolve disputes with a former landlord over a commercial lease that ended badly.  Contact Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. today.



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