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Mon 23rd Mar 2020 - Coronavirus: JD Wetherspoon backs rent campaign and Network Rail cancels first-quarter payment, Costa to shut all stores
JD Wetherspoon backs campaign for six-month rent moratorium: JD Wetherspoon is backing a campaign calling on the government to impose a six-month moratorium on rent. It is supporting the campaign by restaurateur and Street Feast founder Jonathan Downey, who is seeking a six-month moratorium on rent for licensed trade tenants devastated by the coronavirus outbreak. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “ The government should impose this moratorium, as suggested by Jonathan Downey, which would formalise the position of tenants who generally cannot afford to pay rent and aren’t paying rent anyway. Tenants are keen to clear a path for a resumption of trading once pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities are able to open. A moratorium would be an enormous help and would be a vital reinforcement of the dynamic actions of the UK government so far. We understand New York mayor Bill de Blasio has already instigated a moratorium on rent. The UK government has undertaken major concessions in respect of residential property. Wetherspoon has written to its own landlords requesting a waiver of rent for the next three months and has offered a waiver of rent for its own licensed trade tenants and sub-tenants.”

Network Rail cancels first-quarter rent payments: Network Rail has announced significant measures aimed at supporting retailers in Britain’s busiest and biggest stations and small business tenants across its commercial estate as the pandemic starts to have a severe impact on trading. With immediate effect, Network Rail is cancelling all first-quarter (25 March to 23 June) rent payments due from tenants in their commercial estate portfolio, providing significant relief for small businesses that are worried about the impact of the virus on footfall. Further, Network Rail will cancel all base rent payments for retailers in its managed stations for the first quarter of the new financial year (April to June 2020). David Biggs, managing director of Network Rail Property, said: “We work in partnership with retailers and tenants to provide positive experiences for passengers and communities. In challenging times, it’s important we step up to the plate and show our partners they are valued and we are ready and willing to help. That’s why we have taken this decisive action today. We also understand more support may be required as this situation develops. We will continue to liaise with central government and will keep speaking to our retailers and tenants about how we can assist further.” Network Rail has written to all its retailers and small business tenants to make them aware of the new measures. Retailers in stations typically pay a minimum guaranteed (base rent) and a turnover rent based on sales. Network Rail has about 100 retailers in its major stations such as Waterloo, King’s Cross, Leeds and about 1,000 small and medium business tenants.

Costa to close all stores: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has confirmed it is shutting all its stores in the UK. The company has more than 2,300 branches in the UK but all will close as of Monday (23 March) evening. Initially, Costa remained open during the coronavirus outbreak but offering a takeaway-only service. However, after the government urged all restaurants, bars and pubs to close, Costa has become the latest high-street chain to shut its doors. In a statement, Costa said: “At Costa Coffee our number-one priority is the safety of our store teams and customers. As the need to support social distancing increases, we have taken the decision to temporarily close our stores from this evening. We will do our best to keep Costa stores open in hospitals, where we will continue to provide free takeaway coffee for the next two weeks to the NHS workers who are at the forefront of this crisis. Wherever possible, we will also keep our Costa Express machines available.”

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