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Cafe Monk to close its doors after landlord refuses to renew lease

09:43 26/04/2023

Iconic Brussels cafe Monk is closing its doors shortly after celebrating its 10 year anniversary, Bruzz reports.

The cafe’s owner said its landlord, drinks retailer Horeca Logistics Services (HLS), is refusing a lease extension because it wants to carry out renovations.

Monk had attempted legal action against the decision of not renewing the lease, but according to the rent law, renewal of a commercial lease can be refused if the owner wants to carry out structural works that involve demolition and reconstruction costing more than three years of rent.

“In my opinion, the owner is abusing the law to kick us out like this,” operator Filip Jans told Bruzz.

“We were in conflict, our cooperation had become a string of discussions about the drink price, the range, the rent, the renovation works... I think he prefers a tenant who doesn't stand up for himself.”

Jans said he also wonders what renovations the owner could be planning, since the property is (partly) protected as a heritage site.

Monk must vacate the building on Rue Saint Catherine by 18 May 2023 at the latest. While owner HLS did not want to comment on the matter, it promised that the property will continue to house a catering business.

Jans took over Monk 10 years ago after it was declared bankrupt under the same name but with a different operator.

“I am particularly disappointed,” Jans said of the decision to not renew the lease.

“Suddenly 27 staff members lose their jobs, while Monk is a thriving business and a financially healthy one. We are looking for another location, but at the moment, given the timeframe, we don't have much news about it yet. Hopefully we will be able to continue existing.7

“The brewery contracts are strangling the on-trade operators, lack any legal framework and urgently need to be defined within the trade legislation,” Jans said, arguing for a trade legislation defining a brewery contract.

“Contracts are in a legal grey zone, allowing brewers and liquor dealers to raise prices without consultation or accountability, charge non-market prices, change the mandatory drink offer, charge 100% rent during the Covid period, and so on.”

To acquire Monk, Jans paid €120,000 at the time, a one-off fee when acquiring a commercial property to take over clientele or for certain refurbishments, or simply because it is a property in a prime location.

Jans also had to carry out improvement works on the property for €150,000.

Despite the impending closure, a 10th anniversary party is still going ahead as planned and will be held on Saturday 13 May.

Written by Helen Lyons