Whole Foods closed its small-format store in Bellevue Square last year, saying it wasn't performing as well as expected.
Whole Foods can’t be forced to reopen a small Bellevue store that it closed last fall, a state appeals court ruled Monday.
The Amazon-owned grocery chain opened a Whole Foods 365 store in 2016, bringing the smaller, less expensive version of its high-end markets to Bellevue Square. About a year later, Whole Foods closed the store and offered the 56 employees other jobs, according to court documents.
Bellevue Square sued, saying the lease required that Whole Foods keep the store open for at least the first 10 years of the lease. A King County Superior Court judge then ordered the 34,000-square-foot store be reopened.
That decision was quickly stayed by an appeals court, which said the store could remain closed while the lawsuit was winding its way through the courts.
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This week, Division One of the state Court of Appeals said the specifics of the lease agreement did not entitle Bellevue Square to force Whole Foods to keep operating. Instead, Bellevue Square could either end the lease — since Whole Foods violated the terms — or continue it, and keep collecting rent. The court sent the case back to the trial court to decide on next actions.
Whole Foods said last year it closed the store because of issues at the specific site. It still operates a dozen 365-format stores, though none are in Washington state.