“This case encapsulates the COVID-19 pandemic landscape and its economic impact on businesses. A thriving restaurant with long standing rental history which finds its doors all but entirely closed by the government in response to a fast-spreading disease pitted against its large commercial landlord which insists that rent must still be paid. The following is the basis for the Court’s decision,” wrote Judge Romaine Frances O’Brien from Arlington County District Court in Virginia.
In the case brought before Judge O’Brien, the landlord argued that the force majeure provision in the parties’ lease obligates the restaurant-tenant to pay rent notwithstanding the governor’s pronouncement of a state of emergency, which led to the closure of the full-service restaurant, and limited its operations to delivery and takeout only. The restaurant-tenant argued that the purpose of the lease was frustrated by governmental action, the remedy for which is rent abatement pursuant to the lease’s force majeure clause and the doctrine of impossibility. The court disagreed.