Dave & Busters is not leaving White Flint Mall without a fight


Dave & Busters, one of the last tenants at White Flint Mall. (Jacqueline Dupree/Capital Business)

The owners of White Flint Mall are pushing ahead with a massive redevelopment plan, but some of the mall’s best-known tenants claim they are getting railroaded in the process.

Longtime White Flint anchor Lord & Taylor sued the mall’s owners, Lerner Enterprises and the Tower Cos., last July, arguing that their 1975 store agreement prevented the mall’s owners from altering or modifying the property without Lord & Taylor’s consent. So far, a judge has twice sided with the mall’s owners, denying Lord & Taylor’s request to stop development.

Dave & Busters is also taking issue with the plans. In November, the parent company of the restaurant, sports bar and arcade sued the mall’s owners in federal court in Greenbelt, saying the redevelopment violated terms of its lease.

In court filings, attorneys for Dave & Busters Inc., a Missouri corporation headquartered in Dallas, made a similar case as Lord & Taylor, referencing a clause in the lease saying the, “Landlord shall not renovate, remodel, enlarge or otherwise perform any work” in the mall that causes a “material interference” to Dave & Busters operations. The restaurant’s lease won’t expire until 2030; it signed a 35-year deal in 1995, consisting of an initial 20 years and options for another 15.

Attorneys for the mall’s owners filed a motion to dismiss the suit in December, saying Dave & Busters had technically been in violation of its lease since 2006. Attorneys for both parties did not respond to requests for comment.

Wait a second though, how could Dave & Busters operate at White Flint for eight years in violation of its lease?

According to court documents, Lerner is trying to force Dave & Busters out of the White Flint by raising a previous disagreement over the 2006 opening of Dave & Busters Grand Sports Café in Arundel Mills Mall. At the time, an attorney for Lerner Corp., J. Patrick May, wrote the Dave & Busters parent company contending that the new restaurant’s proximity constituted “a significant violation” of the lease at White Flint. Lerner allowed Dave & Busters to operate however.

Now that Dave & Buster is opposing the White Flint redevelopment, Lerner isn’t playing so nice.

According to court records, Lerner resurrected its 2006 claim in 2012 as leverage against Dave & Busters, arguing that the Anne Arundel location gave Lerner the authority “to terminate the Lease and recover possession of Premises from D&B” in White Flint. Dave & Busters received a letter in October of 2012 terminating the lease effective at the end of that year. Dave & Busters remained in White Flint. 

A year after that, in October of 2013, Lerner, founded by Washington Nationals owner Theodore N. “Ted” Lerner, again claimed Dave & Busters was in default because of the Arundel Mills location and asked that the company leave the premises by Nov. 30, 2013. Dave & Busters filed suit instead, asking the court court to clarify its lease rights.

Lerner argued in court that just because it didn’t evict Dave & Busters the first time around doesn’t mean it can’t now.

“Simply because the ongoing breach was not made the subject of legal action within the limitations period following the initiation of such breach does not alter the ongoing nature of the Lease violation,” its attorneys wrote.

Dave & Busters is one of the last businesses still operating in White Flint. The case is set to resume March 21.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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