By Lenore Fedow
Barneys recently opened The High End, a “luxury cannabis lifestyle and wellness concept shop,” on the fifth floor of its Beverly Hills flagship. The luxury retailer is reportedly considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after rent on its New York store nearly doubled.
New York—Luxury department store chain Barneys New York Inc. may soon seek bankruptcy protection as it combats soaring rents and a shift in consumer tastes, according to a Reuters report published earlier this month.

The retailer has managed to weather changing tastes in its 100-year-long history, most recently opening a luxury cannabis-themed shop in its Beverly Hills location, but a rent hike has been weighing heavily on Barney’s balance sheet.

The rent on its 660 Madison Ave. flagship jumped from $16 million to $30 million a year after a city arbitrator approved a rent hike by landlord Ashkenazy Acquisition when Barneys’ lease expired in January 2019, as per a report by The Real Deal.

The building was sold to Ashkenazy Acquisition as a result of the company’s Chapter 11 filing in 1996, following a dispute with its partner Isetan, a Japanese department store chain.

At the end of the legal proceedings, Isetan held the titles to the Barneys stores in New York as well as in Chicago and Beverly Hills, The New York Times reported.

When Isetan severed ties with Barneys in 2001, the buildings in these locations were sold to Ashkenazy Acquisition for $180 million.

Ashkenazy leases space in a slew of notable buildings, including The Plaza Hotel in New York City, Faneuil Hall in Boston and Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Barneys’ 20-year lease set the annual rent at $16 million with a clause that stated the rent could be raised to fair market value when the lease expired. Fair market value was determined to be $60 million, which was then slashed in half to $30 million by the city arbitrator.

“It’s crazy to double the rent; half of Madison Avenue is empty,” Peter Marino, the architect who designed the Madison Avenue store, said in an interview with The New York Times.

Lord & Taylor, Henri Bendel, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren have left the area in recent years, with more retailers said to be in talks to follow.

Barneys is reportedly exploring its options with the help of law firm Kirkland & Ellis, consultants MII partners and investment bank Houlihan Lokey, sources said. If the company chooses not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, its options include renegotiating its leases or bringing in a strategic advisor.

Barneys declined to comment directly on the bankruptcy rumors.

In a statement emailed to National Jeweler Tuesday, a company spokesperson said: “Our board and management are actively evaluating opportunities to strengthen our balance sheet and ensure the sustainable, long-term growth and success of our business.”

The spokesperson also noted that Barneys is moving forward with planned store openings at American Dream, the new mega-mall in New Jersey, and at Bal Harbour Shops in Miami Beach.

Barneys operates 22 stores in the United States as well as five Freds cafes and Gene’s Cafe, located in its Madison Avenue flagship.

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