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Thu 19th Mar 2020 - Coronavirus: landlord rent gesture, footfall, Greggs, more closures, Star Pubs & Bars
Argent to implement three-month rent-free period, operators call lease forfeiture moratorium: Landlord Argent is to implement a three-month rent-free period from 25 March for all retail, leisure and foodservice occupiers in King’s Cross, Propel has learned. In a much-needed move, it’s thought the measure will apply whether a business remains open or decides to close. In an email seen by Propel, Argent states: “We hope this will support you as you navigate this unpredictable time and help our retail, leisure and F&B occupiers in King’s Cross look to the future. In the coming days and weeks we know many more of you are likely to take the difficult decision to close. However, we want to reassure you King’s Cross Estate Services will continue to provide security and cleaning services across the estate as usual.” In response, a leading sector investor told Propel: “It is imperative other landlords follow this great example. Those that don’t should be named, shamed and ashamed.” The move from Argent comes as operators urge the government to create a six-month lease forfeiture moratorium to prevent landlords from changing locks and taking control of premises for non-payment of rent. London Union founder Jonathan Downey, who is leading the call for government intervention, said: “A two-quarter lease forfeiture moratorium is the single biggest difference to the survival of businesses the government can do. This isn’t being pushed enough because nobody seems to understand its importance or application.” Downey said a moratorium would cost the government nothing but added the financial position of landlords would also need to be considered. Therefore, he’s also calling on the government to create a six-month debt enforcement moratorium to give landlords breathing space against litigation, foreclosure and other enforcement of security.

London footfall down 70% as UK numbers continue to plummet: UK high-street footfall was down an average 69% across the UK on Wednesday (18 March) compared with the previous year as people stayed at home during the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The analysis, which took an aggregated look at footfall in more than 800 venues nationally and focused mainly on major cities, showed footfall in London was down 70% year-on-year. Of the other cities analysed, Newcastle saw the biggest drop, 72%. Cardiff was down 69% followed by Edinburgh (66%), Manchester (65%), Liverpool (64%), Birmingham (63%) and Bristol (61%). Wireless Social said during the past seven days there had been a 43% drop in footfall compared with the same period last year.

Greggs closes seating areas: Food-to-go retailer Greggs is closing all restaurant seating areas in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The company has announced all its sites will offer a takeaway service only, with click-and-collect and delivery available in select locations. Customer toilets will be closed and water refill stations will no longer be in use. All condiment units including milk jugs, sugar sachets, cutlery, hot drinks stirrers and napkins will be kept behind the counter but will be available on request. Customers are also being asked to pay contactless when possible and respect each other's personal space while in shops. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Our shops will remain trading for as long as we’re able to keep them open. However, we need to temporarily change the way we do things to create a place where our customers and colleagues feel comfortable and safe with minimal contact. We recognise these changes will make shopping with us more inconvenient and we’re sorry about that, but keeping our customers and colleagues as safe as possible must come first. We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely, reviewing developments and the latest advice, and inform you of any additional steps we need to take. We’ll keep as many of our shops open for as long as possible but you may see a change in our opening hours and range as we respond to this ever-changing landscape. We’ve overcome various challenges over the past 80 years and, as has been said by our government, we will do whatever it takes to get through this crisis together.” Greggs is also offering free hot drinks to emergency service personnel on presentation of their work pass.

YO! and Flight Club among latest to close sites: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led business, has closed 54 of its restaurants for the time being. The remaining 16 restaurants will stay open with restricted hours and a reduced menu to “make things easier for our teams”. The company is also increasing its delivery capabilities. The business said: “Those of you who don’t want to come into restaurants can still enjoy our food for collection, delivery or pick up from selected Tesco & Sainsbury’s stores. We also want to reassure you in those restaurants staying open that we have put in place additional cleaning and sanitising measures to keep you safe. This includes making all dishes to order and bringing them directly to table. This is without doubt the most difficult situation we’ve experienced in YO!’s 23 years and we don’t make these changes lightly. However, things have moved quickly following the government announcements earlier this week and this is the only way to ensure as many of our team members as possible have jobs when this is over.” The company has also extended its Blue Light offer so all NHS workers receive 50% discount on dine-in and YO! To Go menus. This will also be extended to those who work in retail centres or travel hubs in which the brand operates. The YO! sites still open are in Aberdeen, Birmingham Grand Central, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Edinburgh Princess Street, Glasgow Central, Heathrow T2, Heathrow T3, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Arndale, Newcastle Grainger Street, Norwich, Nottingham, St Pancras and York. Meanwhile, darts concept Flight Club has closed its six sites for the “foreseeable future”. The company stated: “During these strange and unprecedented times we’ve been doing our best to provide moments of joy wherever possible and, most importantly, ensure our venues remain safe. Due to the latest update and advice from the government, we have made the difficult decision to close our doors for the foreseeable future. These are devastating circumstances but we feel this is the best way to protect our guests and team. Until we see you again, look after yourselves and be kind to each other and, when the time comes, we look forward to seeing you again in our venues.”

Star Pubs & Bars suspends rent for licensees until at least end of April: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has suspended the collection of rent for its leased and tenanted pubs until at the least the end of April. Managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “We are and will continue to do everything we can to help our pubs. To support pubs through this unprecedented situation we continue to work with our licensees, ready to adapt to the changing situation and ensure they’re making full use of the additional support announced by the government.”

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