Bed Bath & Beyond sues Clearview Mall over refusal to transform store into two new shops _lowres

Advocate photo by KAREN MARTIN -- A Bed Bath & Beyond sign

Almost two years ago, the owners of Bed Bath & Beyond at Clearview Mall in Metairie told their landlords that they wanted to convert the popular, two-story store into a Cost Plus World Market on the first floor and a Buy Buy Baby on the second floor.

The mall refused to give permission for the makeover. And that prompted Bed Bath & Beyond — one of Clearview’s anchors — to file a federal lawsuit last week accusing the mall’s owners of overstepping their authority and costing the store thousands of dollars in lost business.

According to New Jersey-based Bed Bath & Beyond’s suit, the chain’s lease with Clearview allows the tenant to subdivide its store and sublet it to any shops that are considered affiliates. So, in a letter dated Feb. 26, 2014, it asked Richards Clearview LLC to approve “structural alterations necessary to convert the premises” into a pair of stores in the Bed Bath & Beyond corporate family: Cost Plus World Market, which sells home furnishings and imported food, and Buy Buy Baby, which sells gear for newborns.

To facilitate the transformation, Bed Bath & Beyond asked the mall’s owners to relocate specialized passenger-cart escalators as well as an elevator in the store and to create an additional entrance from the mall, the lawsuit said.

The mall responded by asking for evidence that Cost Plus World Market and Buy Buy Baby were affiliates of Bed Bath & Beyond and by requesting a number of construction-related documents, among other things, the lawsuit said. Bed Bath & Beyond said it provided all of the information requested.

Nonetheless, in March, the mall turned down Bed Bath & Beyond’s request. Among the reasons cited were a supposed lack of evidence that Cost Plus World Market was an affiliate and the requested relocation of the escalators, the lawsuit said.

Bed Bath & Beyond contends that Clearview had no justification or legal cause for its denial. The chain said it seeks damages in excess of $75,000, compensation for attorneys’ fees and permission to carry out its proposed modifications “without further delay.”

An attorney for the mall’s owners, Bill Becknell, declined to comment on the suit at length Tuesday because he hadn’t yet been served with the complaint, but he said, “We obviously disagree with their allegations.”

Bed Bath & Beyond signed a lease to operate a store at Clearview in 2001. Facing Veterans Boulevard, the business is frequently packed with shoppers buying bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room items.

It was not immediately clear why Bed Bath & Beyond wants to change its Clearview operation. A spokeswoman for the chain did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

There are Cost Plus World Markets in Harvey, Harahan and Covington, but there are no Buy Buy Baby stores within 100 miles of Metairie, according to the chain’s website.