Supermac's take couple to High Court in row over Limerick premises refurbishment

Supermac's take couple to High Court in row over Limerick premises refurbishment
File photo of a Supermac's store.

Supermac's has gone to court in a legal row over the refurbishment of a fast food restaurant in Limerick.

The High Court will rule at noon tomorrow in the dispute between Supermac's and the operators of one of its stores over who should pay for the outlet's refurbishment.

Supermac's Ireland Limited is seeking a High Court injunction against John and Mary Lyons who, it is claimed, have operated a franchise of the fast food restaurant at the Ennis Road in Limerick for many years.

The application, aimed at preventing the Lyons couple from carrying out works on the Ennis Road premises without Supermacs' consent, is opposed.

Following the conclusion of submissions this evening, Mr Justice Senan Allen remarked the case involved parties "seeking to draw first blood."

Both sides he said were "experienced business people" who "know their business very well".

While the court was prepared to use the "brutal tools" it has and decide on the issue, he said, if the parties came before the court with a solution at 11.59am tomorrow the court would hold off making any ruling.

Seeking the order, Rossa Fanning SC for Supermac's said the injunction, which would remain in place pending the outcome of the full hearing of the dispute, was being sought for an alleged breach of a clause in the Supermac's agreement.

Counsel said his client is both the landlord, as it has the freehold of the Ennis Road premises, as well as the holder of a franchise agreement for the restaurant.

Supermac's, counsel said, in order to ensure that its high standards are maintained has a policy of carrying out all refurbishment works on its stores.

It was accepted refurbishment works are required, but the dispute is over who carried them out, counsel said.

The Lyons' intention to carry out such works is a breach of the franchise agreement, he added.

The Lyons, who the court heard have operated Supermac's franchises for many years, deny Supermacs' claims, and say they are entitled to carry out the refurbishment works on the store.

Through their counsel, Andrew Sexton SC they argued the court should not grant the injunction.

They say that for some years the store needed to be refurbished, in particular equipment such as the cash registrars, needed urgent replacement.

They claim the action taken by Supermac's is "satellite proceedings" arising out of the Circuit Court's decision in 2018 that Supermac's boss Pat McDonagh must reimburse over €150,000 in "overpaid" council rates and rent to the couple.

An appeal over the Ennis Road outlet's tenancy is due to be heard by the High Court in July.

The couple also disputes they are in breach of a franchise agreement purportedly entered into between the parties in 2000.

In a sworn statement to the court, Mr Lyons has claimed he never signed such an agreement and described it as a forgery.

In reply, Mr McDonagh said in his sworn statement that the accusation is "entirely baseless," and has asked for it to be withdrawn.

Mr McDonagh said the written franchise agreement that was provided to Mr Lyons by solicitors representing him was a copy.

He said both his own and the defendant's handwriting experts have said that it was not possible to give a view as to the veracity of the signatures contained on the copy without sight of the original.

Mr Fanning told the court that after an exhaustive search the original had been located at the office of a solicitor that had previously represented Supermac's.

Counsel said the document originated sometime in the early 1990s and not 2000.

The original document had been made available in recent days to the defendant's hand-writing expert for an examination so Mr McDonagh can be cleared of the allegations which, he says, are frivolous and vexatious.

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