The soap and scented lotion hawking retail chain filed a suit against its landlord last week asking a judge to nullify its lease for the 2,500-square-foot location on the ground floor of the property between East 22nd and East 23rd Streets, according to the lawsuit.
The company argued in court documents that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March order to close all non-essential retailers in the state, in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rendered its lease “no longer enforceable under the frustration of purpose doctrine.” (The frustration of purpose doctrine allows a contract to be thrown out if an unforeseen event renders a party unable to fulfill its obligations.)
Bath & Body Works also called on the judge to dismiss all rent payments from March 22 onwards — when Cuomo’s order went into effect — and “an award of liquidated damages in an amount to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.
“SL Green has made several approaches to this tenant with offers to defer a portion of its rent at 304 Park Avenue South,” Stephen Meister, SL Green’s lawyer, said in a statement. “Instead, this large national, publicly-traded conglomerate is exploiting the current health and economic crisis for its own financial gain rather than honor its contractual rent obligations — all at the expense of the local real estate tax base and the fiscal health of New York City.”
The 304 Park Avenue South case is the second legal action Bath & Body Works’ parent company L Brands took against SL Green last week. L Brands also filed a lawsuit to break Victoria’s Secret lease at its 362,191-square-foot outpost in SL Green’s 2 Herald Square, Women’s Wear Daily reported.
A spokesman for Bath & Body Works did not respond to a request for comment.
Bath & Body Works first signed a lease for the space at 304 Park Avenue South in 1996 and recently renewed the deal in 2016, according to court documents and CoStar Group data. It’s unclear how long the renewal was for.
Last month L Brands announced that it would close 50 of the chain’s more than 1,600 locations across the country, USA Today reported. L Brands did not announce specific locations that would shutter but said it would mainly impact its mall locations.
The coronavirus pandemic forced retailers to temporarily shutter locations and caused record drops in retail sales in the United States. However, while other companies in L Brands portfolio like Victoria’s Secret dealt with falling sales figures, Bath & Body Works has been a bright spot.