Humanitarian superstar chef José Andrés has joined with three other high-profile D.C. chefs in taking their insurer to court over coronavirus business interruption payments.
Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup (TFG) joined Central, the James Beard Award-winning American bistro founded by the late Michel Richard, in filing lawsuits on Wednesday, July 30, in Maryland and District of Columbia federal courts. They claim that Travelers Insurance Company wrongfully rejected cover for business losses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Insurers are facing a tsunami of cases by restaurants who claim that their policies were paid for years and should have covered the cost incurred by the forced closure due to the pandemic. Insurers have backed out of paying business interruption insurance as they claim they would not and could not cover claims of this size, and that the effects of paying out would destabilise the insurance industry and the world’s economy as a whole.
Chef Andrés is held in high regard in the industry, and adding his name to the lawsuit against his insurer will only add fuel to the fire that rages against insurers.
ThinkFoodGroup’s lawsuit is related to sixteen of the group’s restaurants covered under the Travelers’ policy, including the Michelin-rated Minibar, Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, China Chilcano, Beefsteak and other operations.
Most of the restaurants on the case are situated in Penn Quarter, which has become a virtual ghost town due to a lack of hotel or foot traffic, with the Capital One Arena now empty.
Andrés issued the following statement on behalf of his restaurant group:
“For over 22 years, our company has consistently paid considerable annual premiums for business interruption insurance from Travelers and now is the time for them to fulfil their obligation. Given that we were forced to close and the pandemic’s effects on our industry, our businesses, our team, and the local farmers and producers who rely on our restaurants, Travelers has a financial responsibility to all of us as we rebuild.”
Travelers, the defendant, provided Eater with the following statement on the latest wave of lawsuits filed against it:
“This is an enormously difficult situation for individuals and businesses and we are committed to paying covered claims, but we simply cannot pay for losses that a policy expressly excludes. In our standard commercial property policies that include business interruption coverage, we have very specific exclusions stating that losses resulting from a virus or bacteria are not covered. If we are going to honor our promises to policyholders for the risks they have paid premiums for and insured against, then we have to protect the integrity of our contracts.”
This story will rumble on through the courts for some time.