Sherry Lehmann’s landlord sues iconic wine shop over $3.6M in rent

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By Dan Sears

Sherry-Lehmann’s landlord is suing the iconic wine retailer as well as its former owners over $3.6 million in unpaid rent – and is demanding that its shuttered store on Park Avenue be cleared out immediately, according to a court filing.

The shop has been closed since March, when the New York State Liquor Authority shut it down for failing to renew its liquor license. But the storied wine seller hasn’t paid its rent since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, according to a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan last week.

Now, Hong Kong-based Glorious Sun — a property firm that owns the swanky tower at the corner of Park Ave. and East 59th Street where Sherry-Lehmann is located — is suing not only the store but also its former owners, who were all signatories on the lease over the past 17 years.

The complaint alleges that each of the former owners are “guarantors” on the lease and liable for the rent debt, “even if they are no longer around,” Edmond O’Brien, the landlord’s attorney, told The Post.

A display of wine bottles on Sherry-Lehmann shelves
Most of the shelves at Sherry-Lehmann are filled with the same bottle of wine rather than the diverse and curated selection that was common before the retailer’s demise.
Robert Miller

That includes Michael Aaron, whose father founded the legendary store in 1934 and who sold his interest in the company in 2007. Aaron, who stepped down as CEO in 2008 is now reportedly retired in Florida, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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Michael Yurch, a co-owner and president of Sherry-Lehmann from 1996 to 2013, is also named in the suit. Yurch said he sold all of his shares in the company a decade ago and has had “nothing to do with the business since,” he told The Post.

Michael Yurch
Michael Yurch, a co-owner and president of Sherry-Lehmann from 1996 to 2013.
Courtesy of Michael Yurch

Yet another defendant is Chris Adams, who was chief executive and a co-owner for more than a decade. Adams, who left the company in 2020, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he he has not yet been served.

The remaining defendants in the suit, Sherry Lehmann and its current co-owner Shyda Gilmer — who also are facing lawsuits by suppliers over undelivered wine as well as a pile of nearly $3 million in unpaid sales tax to New York state — also did not respond to requests for comment.

Michael Aaron holding a glass of wine.
Michael Aaron’s family founded Sherry-Lehmann in 1934.
Christine Aaron

In July, the FBI and other law enforcement agents raided the Park Avenue store, toting out boxes and putting them in to a white van parked outside. The agents also descended on an office building complex that Glorious Sun owns in Pearl River, NY, where Gilmer and Sherry-Lehmann’s other co-owner Kris Green allegedly moved the company’s wine storage business – Wine Caves – from Queens.

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Nevertheless, as of Tuesday the shop on Park Avenue still looked like it did the day it was shuttered in March, although the remaining vintages are mostly cut-rate versus the prize Burgundy and Bordeaux that had once filled Sherry-Lehmann’s shelves.

Shyda Gilmer holding a bottle of champagne.
Shyda-Gilmer is the current co-owner of the 88 year-old retailer.

Chris Adams holds a gift basket of wine.
Chris Adams, who left Sherry-Lehmann in 2020, was an owner and CEO for more than a decade.

A display of orange-labeled Veuve-Cliquot champagne is still at the front of the store (overpriced at $69.95 bottle), while shelves along the wall were stocked with rows of identical, mostly low-rent wines. Bottles of Macallan single-malt scotch stood locked inside a glass cabinet on the wall.

“They have no resources,” a former Sherry-Lehmann employee who did not want to be identified said of the owners. “You need trucks, employees, somewhere to put the bottles — and where are they going to put it all if they can’t even afford the electric bill? So it’s obvious they can’t afford a warehouse.”

Elsewhere, old, historic photos are still hanging on the walls, while a variety of knicknacks and decorations — antique baskets, carafes, and ceramic tankards possibly from decades ago — are still dangling from the ceiling beams.

A FBI agent walking out of Sherry-Lehmann with a box.
FBI agents raided the Park Avenue store, carting out boxes and putting them into a white van parked outside the store.
James Keivom

“The tenants have not removed their belongings,” O’Brien griped, echoing the lawsuit’s claim that “the tenant has failed to surrender possession of the premises” and leave it “broom clean” as required by the lease which was canceled by Glorious Sun on July 26.

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The real estate firm’s lawyer said he does not represent Glorious Sun in any actions involving the Pearl River property and could not comment on what if anything the landlord might do concerning that space.

Wine Caves customers have been trying to reach Sherry-Lehmann to remove their rare and expensive vintages from the storage space, fearing that their property has been lost or stolen, as The Post has reported.

The store’s longtime law firm Nixon Peabody also claims it has not been paid by the retailer and has asked a court to relieve it from representing Sherry-Lehmann in ongoing litigation, as The Post reported. 

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