Berkeley metal manufacturer sues Berkeley Bowl over property dispute

David Rodriguez/Staff

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Metalco, a metal anodizing manufacturer, filed a lawsuit Nov. 30, 2017 against Berkeley Bowl for alleged breach of contract and violation of California business practices.

According to the lawsuit, Metalco alleges that Berkeley Bowl exerted influence on Corder Family Emeryville Properties, the company that previously owned Metalco’s property, to discourage Metalco from renewing its lease on the property. Berkeley Bowl acquired Metalco’s property after Metalco CEO Bill Beard did not employ the option to renew a five-year lease, according to Bruce Kawabata, Berkeley Bowl’s director of governance, risk and compliance.

“We filed the lawsuit simply in an effort to get Berkeley Bowl to come to the table … to make them negotiate a new lease,” said Jesse Boyd, Metalco’s attorney.

The complaint was filed at the Alameda County Superior Court against Berkeley Bowl, the Corder Family Emeryville Properties and Giffen Fiduciary Services.

Boyd said there was “no question in anybody’s mind” that Metalco, a 70-year-old family business, would be renewing its lease.

“We are not forcing out a 70 year old family business,” Kawabata said in an email. “Metalco was more recently purchased by Bill Beard.”

Kawabata said in an email that Berkeley Bowl spent four months attempting to negotiate a new rental rate with Metalco. Boyd, however, said Berkeley Bowl made no efforts to negotiate until the complaint was filed.

The complaint says Metalco was notified that the property had been purchased by Berkeley Bowl in early August, and Metalco subsequently reached out to Berkeley Bowl to negotiate leasing terms.

The complaint also alleges that Metalco was “surprised” to received a letter from Berkeley Bowl on or about Aug. 28 stating that Metalco would “ ‘need to remove by November 30, 2017, all machinery and equipment … and return the premises to the condition of general industrial use.’ ”

In September 2017, Metalco attempted to negotiate a new lease with Berkeley Bowl, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims that in November, Berkeley Bowl said “it would not acknowledge METALCO’s right to renew the Current Lease or provide a reasonable base rent for the new term.”

We attempted many, many times to get Berkeley Bowl to negotiate a new lease,” Boyd said. “Berkeley Bowl steadfastly refused.”

According to Kawabata, Berkeley Bowl offered Beard the chance to renew its lease “at a more than fair rate of rent,” but Beard rejected the company’s proposal and “demanded a rent that was substantially below fair market,” claiming he could not afford to pay more.

Kawabata added that after four months of negotiation — a period in which Berkeley Bowl successfully renegotiated new leases with its other properties involved in the land purchase —Berkeley Bowl initiated action to evict Metalco.

“We are absolutely open to going to a mediation or some other dispute resolution with Berkeley Bowl,” Boyd said. “That was always the case and continues to be the case.”

Contact Cade Johnson and Kelly Yang at [email protected].