Will British ghost towns continue after the coronavirus lockdown?

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Fears are mounting in gymnasiums and restaurants that may never reopen because the owners threaten them with eviction for unpaid rent during the shutdown of the coronavirus.

Nearly 3,000 gymnasiums and leisure centers are now threatened with closure, while the great chef Yotam Ottolenghi has warned that restaurants are suffering from the same problem.

Up to 100,000 jobs may be at risk in gymnasiums, the UKActive trade organization calling for urgent action to protect exercise sites that remain closed due to the pandemic.

New legislation to protect commercial tenants was introduced last month, but it doesn’t prevent landlords from forcing them to pay the rent withheld because of the foreclosure.

This comes after figures revealed that only 4,200 companies were able to get government emergency loans for rescuing coronaviruses – out of 300,000 applicants.

Deserted scenes in the main street of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, Good Friday last week

Deserted scenes in the main street of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, Good Friday last week

Last Friday, a very deserted street in Arundel, West Sussex, despite the good weather

Last Friday, a very deserted street in Arundel, West Sussex, despite the good weather

Ottolenghi said on BBC Radio 4 today: “The biggest worry we have is the rent. When Corona started and we were asked to close our doors, which is understandable for security reasons, no one really touched on the rental issue

“Many, many did not pay rent. Others have signed agreements with their owners, but this has not been resolved.

Grand chef Yotam Ottolenghi (pictured in May 2018 in London) warned that owners were threatening restaurants with legal action

Grand chef Yotam Ottolenghi (pictured in May 2018 in London) warned that owners were threatening restaurants with legal action

“Some landlords have threatened to sue and sue restaurant tenants in such a delay because they don’t pay their rents, and many of them are relying on rent to pay their rent. own debts. “

He is asking the government to give restaurants a “contentious cease-fire” with a six-month moratorium on debt enforcement, in which all credit action is prohibited.

Ottolenghi said it would mean business owners can’t be sued for paying rent – and the same goes for owners who can’t pay their mortgages.

He also suggested a “national expiration date” of nine months of free rent from April to December during which owners would also be compensated.

Regarding the gymnasium industry, UKActive CEO Huw Edwards explained how “totally disproportionate” legal actions such as issuing statutory claims and liquidating orders.

Edwards said yesterday, “A disturbing number have decided to continue with statutory notices or liquidation orders.

Last Thursday, the deserted streets of London's West End shopping district

Last Thursday, the deserted streets of London’s West End shopping district

Empty gymnasium in Leicester on March 21 after government ordered them to close

Empty gymnasium in Leicester on March 21 after government ordered them to close

“We need the government to act now to legislate that the owners cannot do this. With 2,800 gymnasiums threatened with permanent closure and 100,000 jobs at stake, time is running out. “

Section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, introduced on March 25, aims to help protect commercial tenants by prohibiting forfeiture of commercial leases until June 30 – or longer if the government deems it necessary – for not -rent payment.

But that doesn’t stop landlords from taking measures such as collecting rent arrears, claiming debt, making statutory claims, or initiating liquidation proceedings.

Notice on exercise equipment at a gymnasium in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, advising customers of social distancing measures on March 20, the day all gyms in Britain are closed

Notice on exercise equipment at a gymnasium in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, advising customers of social distancing measures on March 20, the day all gyms in Britain are closed

An open-air gym that is closed in Leicester after Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked the UK out to help curb the spread of coronavirus

An open-air gym that is closed in Leicester after Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked the UK out to help curb the spread of coronavirus

UKActive therefore wants the government to amend the law so that landlords cannot take legal action and provide them with financial support for rental leave.

295,000 small businesses still waiting for loans

Only 4,200 companies were able to obtain government emergency rescue loans – out of 300,000 applicants.

Worrisome figures emerged despite the fact that the program had already been revised once earlier this month when companies complained that they were unable to access the money. Business owners have warned that failure means they could go bankrupt.

About £ 800 million has been distributed as part of this package – a pale figure compared to the £ 146 billion supplied to 725,000 businesses in the United States.

Lord Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, said: “Something went wrong. The economy will only recover if we can continue to run businesses and take over once the crisis is over. “

Banks have been overwhelmed by demand since the launch of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans program last month.

They were charged with refusing loans on the basis of complex eligibility criteria. Over two-thirds of the loans, 2,500 in total, have been approved by the state bank RBS.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said, “We have it in place and everyone is working around the clock.”

In one case, David Lloyd Leisure asked a landlord for rent relief due March 25 until he could reopen his clubs, but the landlord responded by threatening to take legal action.

Channel CEO Glenn Earlham told BBC News: “Unfortunately, this is completely beyond our control.

“We want to work with the landlords to make sure we can survive this pandemic and emerge with businesses that can continue to pay rent and other costs in the future. “

And PureGym CEO Humphrey Cobbold said, “Time is of the essence, as procedures such as statutory claims and winding-up orders threaten to force businesses into insolvency within days of their release.” .

A government spokesperson told MailOnline, “The government has already put in place an extensive business support program, including government-guaranteed grants and loans, as well as legislation ensuring that commercial tenants and individuals are protected against eviction if they are unable to pay their rent.

“In these exceptional times, we urge homeowners to act in a socially responsible manner, exercising judgment and discretion with their tenants.”

Gyms – alongside pubs, restaurants and other shops – closed to customers from the evening of March 20 under measures introduced by the Prime Minister.

But many have promised to freeze membership payments and offer online workouts.

PureGym, one of the UK’s largest operators with 230 offices, told its more than one million members that they would not have to pay when the gyms closed.

A post on its website said it launched “PureGym Home,” offering workouts, on-demand classes, and ideas for nutrition and wellness through its app.

When the gyms reopen, customers’ first payments will be credited with any unpaid amount from their current monthly subscription, the company said.

Virgin Active has also told customers that it will automatically freeze membership payments. Accounts will be credited with frozen fees already paid and prorated membership fees paid for the period between March 21 and March 31.

Nuffield Health also said it is freezing fee payments and has told customers it will provide ways to keep them fit and healthy, including through videos on YouTube.

Clubs David Lloyd, The Gym Group, DW Fitness First, Better Leisure Centers and Better Gyms have all confirmed a freezing of member payments covering the closure.

** Are you a business owner who has been threatened with legal action for unpaid rent? Email: [email protected] or [email protected] **

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