Sheridan v The Louis Fitzgerald Group Limited & Anor, [2006] IEHC 125 (2006)

Docket Number:2006 933P
Judge:Clarke J.
 
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THE HIGH COURT[2006 No. 933P]BETWEEN DAMIEN SHERIDANPLAINTIFF AND

THE LOUIS FITZGERALD GROUP LIMITED AND BURSTON LIMITEDDEFENDANTS JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Clarke delivered the 4th day of April, 2006

  1. Introduction

    1.1 The plaintiff ("Mr. Sheridan") operates a catering business. The defendants ("Fitzgerald") are connected companies which operate a chain of well known public houses. In particular Fitzgerald operates a public house at Temple Bar in Dublin City Centre known as "The Quays Bar". On the first floor of the same premises there is a restaurant known as the "The Quays Kitchen". In the middle of 2005 Mr. Sheridan and a colleague, a Mr. Alan Hughes, became the proprietors of a company called Damal Catering Limited ("Damal"). Mr. Sheridan was already involved in business with Fitzgerald having entered into an agreement in the form of a licence to provide restaurant and catering facilities at another public house premises owned by Fitzgerald and known as "The Big Tree" on Dorset St. in Dublin.

    1.2 However as of June 2005 Damal had been established for the purposes of running the business at the Big Tree and also entered into negotiations to conduct a business at the Quays Kitchen.

    1.3 While there is a dispute between the parties as to the nature and terms of the agreement entered in respect of the Quays Kitchen, it is common case that an agreement was entered into which resulted in Damal commencing to provide catering and restaurant services at the Quays Kitchen.

    1.4 It is also clear that Damal ran into financial difficulties in the latter part of 2005 and was put into voluntary liquidation by resolutions passed at meetings of creditors and members held on 19th December, 2005. By that time Damal had been operating the restaurant at the Quays Kitchen for a number of months.

    1.5 While I will return to certain aspects of the contentions of the parties as to the relevant agreements allegedly entered into, in the course of this judgment, in substance Mr. Sheridan contends that in August, 2005 (after two trial periods of one month each), it was agreed between himself on behalf of Damal and Mr. Alan Murtagh, Group Operations Officer of Fitzgerald, that Damal would obtain a lease in respect of the Quays Kitchen restaurant for a term of five years at an initial rent of 100,000 per annum payable weekly which was to be "fixed for eighteen months and reviewable thereafter". Mr. Sheridan contends that Mr. Murtagh also required that a deposit of 30,000 would be paid and that the relevant lease would be drafted by Fitzgerald's solicitors. Mr. Sheridan further contends that on the day after Damal went into liquidation he met again with Mr. Murtagh who agreed, on behalf of Fitzgerald, that a lease in the same terms as had previously been agreed in favour of Damal would be granted to Mr. Sheridan personally. On his case the only reason why a lease had not been executed in favour of Damal was because no lease had been produced to him for signature.

    1.6 Fitzgerald denies that any agreement was ever entered into in respect of a lease and further denies that any long term agreement was ever entered into in respect of any other form of arrangement. In substance Mr. Sheridan brings these proceedings for the purposes of enforcing the contract which he contends exists between the parties for a lease on the terms which I have outlined above.

    1.7 Matters came to a head in the latter part of February of this year. It would appear that at a meeting on 30th January, 2006, Mr. Murtagh indicated that no long term arrangement would be entered into between the parties. While there is some dispute as to precisely what was said at the relevant meeting (a dispute which cannot be resolved at this interlocutory stage) it seems clear that as a result of that meeting Mr. Sheridan became aware that Fitzgerald did not intend to execute any long term arrangement whether lease or otherwise. Fitzgerald's position was and is that, as a result of the meeting of 30th January, Mr. Sheridan was required to vacate the premises by late February. It is accepted that Mr. Sheridan received a formal letter requiring him to vacate the premises by 26th February. It appears clear that locks were changed as of the 26th February and other actions taken to exclude Mr. Sheridan from that time. It would appear that between the weekend of the 25th/26th February and the commencement of proceedings on 1st March arrangements with a third party were entered into by Fitzgerald to provide for the continuance of restaurant/catering services at the Quay Kitchen. Thereafter these proceedings followed.

  2. The Proceedings

    2.1 The matter came before me as an application for an interlocutory injunction. Having regard to the urgency of the matter I indicated to the parties that I would deliver a brief ruling within a short number of days of the conclusion of the hearing and would give further details of the reasons behind such ruling in due course. Accordingly, having reserved judgment for two days, I indicated to the parties that I did not consider it appropriate to make an interlocutory order. The purpose of this judgment is to set out the detailed reasons which led me to that conclusion.

  3. The Injunction

    3.1 In essence each of the three matters of which I am required to be satisfied in order to grant an interim or interlocutory injunction was in contest. There was a dispute as to whether there is a fair issue to be tried between the parties. There was a dispute as to whether damages would be an adequate remedy. There was a dispute as to where the balance of convenience lies.

    3.2 In those circumstances it is necessary for me to start with a consideration as to whether the plaintiff had established that there was a fair issue to be tried. The plaintiff's principal...

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