The Financial Times reports that The Wolseley's Jersey-based landlord STJ Investments is demanding Corbin & King pay all of the c.£1m of rent debt that built up while the restaurant was closed during Coronavirus lockdowns.
It has tried to evict The Wolseley by taking Corbin & King to court.
So far, the restaurant group has defended itself using a clause in the lease that precludes payment of rent if trading is not permitted at the site by government edict.
STJ Investments, which is controlled by the Russian-born Belgian oligarch Vladimir Zemtsov, is now trying to find alternative ways to reclaim what it says is owed.
According to The FT, this week the landlord filed court papers alleging that The Wolseley had illegally sublet the premises because the lease was in the name of the Wolseley 'Prop Co', while the rent is paid by the Wolseley 'Op Co'.
Corbin & King has called the claim 'spurious'.
Jeremy King, Corbin & King’s chief executive, told The FT: “The landlord’s avowed intent was to get every single penny of rent. Our argument was, we will pay what is due but we will not pay [the rent owed] for the pandemic period.”
Corbin & King, which operates a total of nine restaurants across the capital including Brasserie Zédel, Soutine and The Delaunay, has racked up around £100,000 in legal fees fighting STJ Investments, which also insists that its property insurance is not liable to pay out half the sum of the rent under the policy terms.
Through its lawyers, STJ told The FT it took court action 'as a last resort' and that despite offering a 'reasonable concession', The Wolseley has 'refused to pay any rent for the period when the restaurant was forced to close'.
Rent remains one of the biggest roadblocks to the recovery of the hospitality sector.
It is estimated that around £2.5bn in rent arrears has been built up by hospitality firms during the course of the pandemic, with many businesses struggling to cover repayments.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls recently told MPs that one in five hospitality landlords are still unwilling to negotiate on rent payments.
Businesses unable to pay rent as a result of the pandemic are currently protected from eviction by the Lease Forfeiture Moratorium, which came into effect at the start of the pandemic and is now set to run until 25 March 2022.