The basement of Ted Baker’s posh New York City flagship store has been battling with raw sewage leaks for years — creating “dangerous conditions” for customers and staff, according to a new lawsuit.
The London clothier’s 8,000-square-foot store at 115-121 Wooster St. in the upscale Soho neighborhood has been plagued by at least 45 incidents of “fetid water filled with human waste overflowing and flooding into bathrooms, hallways, offices and pantry,” according to Ted Baker’s lawsuit against its landlord filed earlier this month in Manhattan Supreme Court.
While most of these “floods of noxious water” have been relegated to the basement level, where the company has an office, pantry and storage space, the problem has also slithered its way up to the store’s bathroom on the ground floor, which is used by customers, the lawsuit said.
Ted Baker, which got its start selling men’s shirts, is now suing its landlord, Wooster Street LLC, for $430,000 in damages. The British fashion house — whose eccentric founder, Ray Kelvin, was ousted last year amid “forced hugging” claims — also faces the threat of eviction, the lawsuit revealed.
The retailer claims the putrid plumbing problem started less than one month after it took over the space in the fall of 2016, and that it has endangered its customers and staffers ever since, including through the growth of dangerous mold. Employees can no longer use a bathroom, storage and office space located in the basement, the complaint claims.
The plumbing problem has also created a rift between Ted Baker and the landlord, an entity owned by Bronx-based Schur Management Co. The landlord says Ted Baker is responsible for fixing the problem and “improperly threatened to terminate the lease” unless Ted Baker remedied the issue by April 13, 2020, according to the retailer’s lawsuit. The landlord’s lawyer, Mark Lubelsky, declined to comment.
Making matters worse, Ted Baker had stopped paying rent in April — saying the combination of the sewage problem and the pandemic “frustrated the purpose of the lease and made performance impossible.”
That led to the landlord digging into Ted Baker’s nearly $1 million security deposit to start paying the $164,060 monthly bill, the lawsuit said.
The landlord tapped into the security deposit in April, May and June — until a judge issued a restraining order on June 5.
“It was a classic bully situation. They had the money and just took it,” said the retailer’s attorney Glen Lenihan of Oved & Oved. For months the company had no choice but to sit by and watch “because after March 23 the courts were closed, except for essential issues,” Lenihan said.
After months of being closed due to the coronavirus, Ted Baker’s Soho store reopened in early July with a “skeleton crew,” but still cannot use the office or storage space in the basement, Lenihan said.
“They are hamstrung in what they can do,” the retailer’s attorney said. “A brand like Ted Baker can’t have boxes lying around the sales floor.”