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The Mall of America is suing a restaurant and its co-owner, alleging it signed a lease agreement, failed to pay rent and ultimately never opened.

The chain restaurant, Chicken Guy, and its co-founder Robert Earl are named as the defendants in the lawsuit. The fast-casual establishment was also co-founded by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, but only Earl's name is on the lawsuit filed in Hennepin County.

Chicken Guy was originally supposed to open in early 2020, signing a lease in August 2019 inside the North food court. However, the place never opened, nor did construction even begin. 

According to the lawsuit filed on Sept. 9, the mall is accusing Chicken Guy of breaching its lease by failing to pay rent, begin any construction, and open by mid-June 2021. In addition, Earl Enterprises is named and accused of committing "fraud by omission" after presenting the company as a "credit-worthy entity" to pay its financial obligations in full under the lease, which runs through June 2032. 

The total amount due for "past rental obligations" under the signed lease is $292,333.20 as of July 31, according to court documents. 

The MOA is now seeking more than $3 million from Earl and his company to cover the rent owed through the end of the lease, with attorney fees and court costs also included.

It was previously announced in August 2019 that the Florida-based chain would open at the mall.

The defendants are denying all wrongdoing, liability and damages. Chicken Guy, Earl and his company are requesting a jury trial in response.

The company is arguing it was excused from the lease as a result of the pandemic. The mall closed briefly in March 2020, before reopening in June 2020. 

"Defendant’s obligation to perform any of alleged obligations under the lease and Guaranty was excused because the purpose and object of the lease and Guaranty, and performance under the lease and Guaranty, became impossible and commercially impracticable as a result of the pandemic," a court filing by attorneys for Chicken Guy, Earl and his company reads.

Earl and his company state Chicken Guy is entitled to "an abatement or reduction in rent" for the period during which the mall was closed for three months in 2020.

According to Earl Enterprises' website, Earl owns multiple restaurants including Planet Hollywood — another former MOA location owned by Earl that closed in 2003 — and Buca Di Beppo, once based out of Minneapolis.

Chicken Guy's website shows seven locations that are currently open and three more restaurants that are "coming soon." None of them are the MOA location.

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