Why timely legal advice is vital to your business: Insights from the Crema Espresso v Grocorp Case

In the business world, disputes are pretty common. But rarely do they ‘brew’ as intensely as in the recent case of Crema Espresso Leasing Pty […]

By John Christian – December 13, 2023
business legal advice - Victor Legal

In the business world, disputes are pretty common. But rarely do they ‘brew’ as intensely as in the recent case of Crema Espresso Leasing Pty Ltd v Grocorp Developments Pty Ltd [2023] QCAT 281 (Crema Espresso v Grocorp).

This case revolved around what seemed to be a simple matter of selling coffee. But it soon escalated into a significant legal battle. And in the process, it taught the legal and business community important lessons about the complexities of commercial leasing and the critical need for sound legal advice.

In this article:

Crema Espresso v Grocorp overview

Crema Espresso and Grocorp Developments were both parties to a retail tenancy agreement over a multi-tenanted site in Bundall, Queensland. Crema Espresso, as a tenant, contended that Grocorp, as the lessor, breached this agreement because it allowed another tenant, Freedom Fuels, to sell barista-made coffee in direct competition with their business.

As part of the dispute, Crema Espresso also accused Grocorp of making false or misleading statements which caused them to enter into the lease agreement.

After a detailed examination, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), dismissed Crema Espresso’s claims. They determined that the sale of coffee by Freedom Fuels did not constitute a breach of the lease agreement, and that there was no evidence to support their claim of misrepresentation by Grocorp.

Crema Espresso was then ordered to pay Grocorp $166,655.57 in arrears plus interest (at an interest rate of 12.85% per annum).

This case highlights some interesting and important aspects of commercial leasing and business law, including:

  • Understanding legal agreements. This case showcases the importance of thoroughly understanding and negotiating the terms of all lease agreements. As a business you must make sure that you have clear contracts, especially when it comes to exclusivity and competition clauses.
  • Exclusivity clauses. Leases containing exclusivity clauses should be carefully negotiated before executing the lease so the parties can be sure there’s a commercial meeting of the minds.
  • Misrepresentation and unconscionable conduct.
    Claims of misrepresentation and unconscionable conduct are considered severe by the courts. Because of that they require substantial evidence to prove. As a business you must be vigilant about the representations you rely on and make sure that they are verifiable.
  • Dispute resolution. When you enter into any contract you need to be prepared for the possibility of a legal dispute. Your contracts should take into account the processes involved and the role of tribunals such as QCAT.
  • Potential costs of legal disputes. The financial implications of this dispute for Crema Espresso was significant and included paying a hefty amount of arrears and a high interest on those arrears.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the value of early and ongoing business legal advice whenever you enter into any contract, including lease agreements. This is particularly true when it comes to the complex areas of lease agreements, which can include exclusivity and competition clauses and which can directly affect the success of your business.

Getting legal counsel early can help you understand the contract, preventing misunderstandings, and ensuring that you can easily meet your contractual obligations while still seeing your business succeed. And it can certainly help mitigate the risks of costly litigation!

The Crema Espresso v Grocorp case is a cautionary tale about the complexities of commercial leasing and the need for sound legal advice, early on in the piece. As we’ve seen here, even straightforward agreements can lead to significant legal disputes, and serious financial consequences.

At Victor Legal we’re specialists in commercial law. Our team can help provide you with the expertise and guidance you need to navigate the intricacies of leases and other commercial agreements.

Contact us today!

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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