Bellwoods Brewery to finally open new location after wild legal case with landlord

May 24 2023, 5:41 pm

Bellwoods Brewery, one of Toronto’s top destinations (if not the top spot) for craft beer, is at long last poised to open a third location in the city after what appears to be a lengthy and very difficult battle with their new landlord.

The brewpub had announced back in 2014 that a new outpost — their second at the time — was coming to 950 Dupont Street and was slated to include a tasting room, retail store, event space, rooftop hop garden and, of course, a large brewing facility to keep up with demand for the brand’s award-winning product.

Extensive restoration of Bellwoods’ portion of the historic building was due to begin sometime in 2015, and in May of that year, the company signed a 20-year lease for the 25,000+-square-foot space. But, since then, the ambitious expansion project seems to have become an absolute nightmare.

According to newly available legal documents, Bellwoods owners filed a lawsuit against their landlord, who they say breached the lease by refusing to vacate the iconic, if run-down glass box building at Dupont and Dovercourt.

Since Bellwoods was never actually able to move into or commence work on the space, they launched their legal push to occupy it as per the lease agreement. The landlord in turn sued them for unpaid rent, and their realtor jumped into the mix too, suing for unpaid commission.

The court recently decided in Bellwoods’ favour, with Ontario Superior Court of Justice Judge Robert Centa writing that “Bellwoods gave the landlord many opportunities to live up to the obligations under the lease. The landlord completely disregarded these obligations.”

“Bellwoods did not breach the lease and the Landlord’s counterclaim is dismissed,” he continued, also dismissing the realtor’s legal action and awarding the brewing co. some hefty damages, outlined in a decision that prefaces some very juicy details about the years-long battle.

While the brewery’s lease gave the landlord 30 days to empty the premises — which he was using as storage and showroom space for a furniture store on another part of the property — the landlord claimed he was only required to “empty the leased premises of personal property to the extent reasonably necessary to permit Bellwoods to engage in the design process.”

He also argued that Bellwoods owners were not even allowed entry to the space, for which they had dropped a whopping $113,000 as a deposit back in May 2015.

He even began renting the space Bellwoods had secured to others, allowing a third party to host a Valentine’s Day party there in 2016 and lying to Bellwoods owners about the event.

The location also played home to House of Vans a month later, a multi-week event that had musical performances, art fixtures and more, all in a space Bellwoods was due to be turning into their new brewery.

“[The landlord] explained that he did not vacate the leased premises because he ‘didn’t want to,'” the judge hilariously writes in the filing.

The added slap in the face was the potential for these events to interfere with Bellwoods’ ability to obtain liquor licenses and other approvals for their new space in the future, which is noted in the doc.

After all of this, the brewery somehow gave the landlord another chance, though, and got him to agree to be out of the space by November 2016, or else the lease between the two parties would be terminated. Of course, the location was still not empty by that time.

In acknowledgement of the landlord’s whopping 18-month refusal to allow the brewery to actually take over the space they were entitled to — and had planned to open to the public in 2016 — the judge determined that Bellwoods owners are entitled to specific performance of the lease and monetary damages to the tune of a cool $6.11 million.

“The Landlord’s breach of the lease brought the entire process to a halt. Bellwoods expected to be open for business in August 2016. It is now 2023. The damages to Bellwoods are obvious,” Centa states, taking into consideration all of the potential income lost by this disagreement.

The landlord has now been ordered to vacate the leased space at 950 Dupont within 30 days of the judgment dated May 11, 2023, and pay the damages along with additional prejudgment interest.

The few members of the public who have taken note of the case have been gripped by its drama, and also what it means for the city: a third location of one of our favourite local breweries in an absolutely epic, unique space.

There’s no word yet on when fans can expect the new Bellwoods to open its doors, but based on the exhaustive nature of this legal battle, we’ll happily give the brewery some time to catch their breath and get things rolling, at long last.

Until then, we’ve got their newly expanded flagship on Ossington and 20 Hafis Road brewery and bottle shop, which was actually opened in late 2016 solely because the Dupont location was so behind schedule.

Becky RobertsonBecky Robertson

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