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Brussels cafés take AB InBev to court over rent

© Anastasia Chepinska for Unsplash

As the Consultative Committee today discusses the possible relaxation of the closure of all bars and cafes, a number of establishments owned by the brewer AB InBev have started a legal action against their landlord regarding the rent they are being asked to pay.

The bars have been closed by law since November, and the tenants have been prevented by law from carrying out the business intended by the lease.

However, InBev, the largest brewer in the world, has continued to require payment of rent for the premises.

According to the lawyer for one group of bars in Brussels, “AB InBev proposed a 25 percent rent reduction to my three clients, but that’s not enough.”

Two of the premises, Le Parvis in Uccle and the Bistropolitan in Etterbeek are restaurants, and were able to maintain 10% of their business in takeaway meals. The third, the Grand Café in central Brussels, is a bar with no possibility of operating takeaway.

Together, with either 0% or 10% income, no possibility of paying 75% rent. Instead, lawyer Nicolas Ouchinsky claims, 25% would be more reasonable.

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Over at InBev, a spokesperson explained that the whole sector is in the same boat and that even the world’s largest brewer is suffering the effects of the pandemic.

The pressure on the sector is strong. Small brewers, large brewers, bars, restaurants and hotels; we are all under pressure in the same boat,” the company’s spokesperson said.

The group cut the rents of its bars and restaurants by 100% for the month of April 2020 and to 25% for the months of November and December 2020 and January 2021. This measure cost InBev €20 million.

In many cases, the group stressed, InBev is no more than an intermediary between the actual owner of the property and the bar management. In any case, the company is always ready to discuss payment terms instead of seeking legal remedies.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times