The First Department determined plaintiff retail store (GAP) was not entitled to a termination of its lease by operation of law based upon the New York governor’s COVID shutdown order and subsequent reopening restrictions. Plaintiff relied on the doctrines of frustration of purpose and impossibility, neither of which was deemed applicable:
Plaintiffs admittedly were allowed to provide curbside and in-store pickup on June 8, 2020, and to reopen at half capacity, with masking and social distancing, on June 22, 2020. Moreover, they represent that they were allowed to reopen fully from June 2021, albeit with the mask requirements reimposed during the winter months. Contrary to plaintiffs’ contention, “frustration of purpose is not implicated by temporary governmental restrictions on in-person operations” … . …
We have already rejected plaintiff Gap’s contention that Executive Order No. 202.8 “rendered it objectively impossible to perform its operations as a retail store” where, as here, Gap filed its complaint after reopening was allowed (Gap, Inc. v 170 Broadway Retail Owner, LLC, 195 AD3d at 577). In addition, even if the reopening restrictions made plaintiffs’ ability to provide a flagship store experience more difficult, the pandemic did not render their performance impossible, as “the leased premises were not destroyed” … . Gap, Inc. v 44-45 Broadway Leasing Co. LLC, 2022 NY Slip Op 03980, First Dept 6-16-22
Practice Point: The COVID executive orders requiring GAP to shutdown its retail store and then imposed restrictions on reopening did not terminate GAP’s lease as a matter of law. The contract-law doctrines of frustration of purpose and impossibility did not apply.