Update: On Monday, Whole Foods filed an appeal against an injunction filed Dec. 7, which forced them to reopen in 14 days after being sued by the owners of Bellevue Square for closing suddenly in October. Whole Foods is seeking a review by the Division 1 Court of Appeals.
Editor’s Note: Story has been updated as of 1:20 p.m., Dec. 13.
A King County Superior Court judge filed a preliminary injunction this week forcing Whole Foods to reopen its 365 Whole Foods store within 14 days, after Bellevue Square owners sued the company for breaking its long-term lease.
According to the injunction signed by judge Mary Roberts, the lease imposed Whole Foods to be open and operational for at least 10 years of the 20-year lease. The store closed suddenly in October after opening in September 2016, notifying subscribers that the store would shut down permanently and items would be half-price.
At the time, a Whole Foods spokesperson said the 365 brand wasn’t meeting profit projections, noting the Bellevue Square location was a difficult site, and the company planned to continue opening 365 stores in other U.S. locations.
According to the injunction, “Bellevue Square was told by Whole Foods of the closure 15 minutes before the start of the ‘Store Closing’ sale.”
The injunction also states that Whole Foods accepted the 20-year lease terms of operating for a minimum of 10 years, and the lease contains no provision for a right to vacate if profit projections aren’t met.
Bellevue Square claimed financial harm from the sudden Whole Foods vacancy, and the injunction states the grocer generates billions of dollars and is not at risk of insolvency if it’s ordered to reopen and operate as agreed under the lease terms.
425 Business spoke with David A. Nold, an attorney with Bellevue-based Nold Muchinsky, the law firm representing Bellevue Square on this matter. He confirmed Whole Foods has continued to pay rent on the location, but said that’s not the point.
“It’s like the right and left wing of an airplane,” said Nold. “Bellevue Square wants its rent, and it wants the store to be open. That’s what it bargained for. That’s how it works. Bellevue Square would like to work with Whole Foods and arrange a mutually convenient schedule in which that could happen, and it hopes it will. Three years went into the planning of having that store get to where it is. That’s why a lot of effort is being put into having them come back and open.”
Nold would not comment on the next steps in this legal process, or whether he thinks Whole Foods will appeal Judge Roberts’ decision. 425 Business has reached out to Whole Foods for comment but have not responded to phone calls or email requests.
“The court has ordered them to open within 14 days,” added Nold. “We posted the bond (Thursday, Dec. 7), so that clock is ticking.”