After months of wrangling with neighbors and finally receiving approval in January from city planners, beleaguered burrito chain Chipotle is backing out of what would have been the first Chipotle in New Orleans proper, according to a lawsuit filed by its landlord, 2801 Magazine, LLC, this week.
“Since we began exploring possibilities for that site, we have made some changes to our priorities and have decided not to move forward with that location,” a spokesperson for Chipotle told Eater NOLA today.
This is good news for the Irish Channel and Garden District neighbors and activists who staunchly opposed it, arguing that national chains could dilute the cultural potency of the street.
Even better news for those neighbors: The landlord might not be able to lease the space to anything like Chipotle in the future. The property owner, Chipotle, the Garden District Association, and the Neighborhood Improvement Association of the Irish Channel, Inc., signed a “good-neighbor” and “restrictive covenant” agreement, which legally prevents any fast food restaurant from occupying the space after Chipotle’s lease ends.
So the property owner is suing Chipotle, alleging that the anti-fast-food-restaurant agreement was only signed to benefit Chipotle so that city planners would approve the restaurant, effectively putting activists’ fears to rest that the opening would pave the way for more fast food chains. Presumably he thinks the restriction will prevent him from courting other fast food tenants. The landlord is also suing for the rental income it was expecting over the course of the 10-year lease, plus damages.
Chipotle’s lawyer says that the lease was not contingent on them actually operating a restaurant at the address, so it’s completely legal for them to back away.
UPDATE (March 21, 2018; 4:04 p.m.): This story has been updated with a comment from Chipotle.
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