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Tue 15th Dec 2020 - Update: Boxpark, pub landlords, Roganic and Shaftesbury
Boxpark to reduce rent for food traders staying open, cancels charges for operators that shut: Boxpark will reduce rent for food traders that wish to stay open during the tier three restrictions in London from Wednesday (16 December) – and will not charge rent to any tenants that remain closed. Boxpark sites will remain open for takeaway and delivery only, and all retailers at its Shoreditch site will stay open in line with government regulations. All food traders will be able to remain open to offer takeaway and delivery services with delivery partners including Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats. Boxpark chief executive Roger Wade said: “It is devastating London has been placed into tier three less than two weeks after coming out of lockdown. This is a key trading period for the hospitality industry and the current government measures seem to unfairly target the hospitality industry when the reality is that the majority of covid cases are spread in care homes, schools, universities and workplaces. I fear these latest measures will be the final nail in the coffin for many businesses and we are working with our traders to offer them a sustainable way of trading under the current restrictions. Until we have a successful vaccination program, it is crucial we make the right holistic decisions – it makes more sense to have a complete lockdown rather than making the hospitality industry the sacrificial lamb.”

Government accused of siding with landlords over pubs code: The Times newspaper has reported the government has been accused of siding with pub landlords over their tenants and conducting a ‘phoney’ review of rules governing the industry, leaving publicans ‘horribly exposed’ to the covid-19 crisis. The newspaper added: “Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has been told that a consultation on reforming the pubs code had ‘promised so much and delivered so little’ and the government’s response had ignored ‘fundamental failings’ of the rules. As more pubs are ordered to shut to contain the virus, groups representing about 7,000 tenants told Mr Sharma that weak regulation was putting more pubs at risk of failure and the government must make it easier for tenants to break the centuries-old beer ‘tie’. The tie forces tenants to buy beer and other products and services from their landlords at prices typically much higher than market rates, ostensibly in return for reduced rents. The pubs code, which came into force in 2016, was intended to end the tie by allowing tenants to switch to a ‘market-rent only’ arrangement, allowing publicans to buy supplies at market rates. Last month the government responded to the consultation with proposals for minor adjustments to the operation of the code but said the rules were working in a way ‘consistent with the principles’ it was set up with. The British Pub Confederation, a campaigning organisation that comprises tenant groups as well as the GMB and Unite unions, said the government had merely ‘tinkered around the edge’ of the code, which governs six regulated pub-owning companies, or ‘pubcos’.”

Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan closes Roganic site: Simon Rogan’s Michelin star restaurant, Roganic, located on Blandford Street in Marylebone, will not be reopening in its current location, Propel has learned. Plans to relocate the restaurant – which opened three years ago and won a Michelin star within a year – have been in discussion since 2019, but were put on hold as a result of the pandemic. Roganic has remained closed since the initial lockdown was implemented in March. When lockdown was lifted in July, with the chef placing his focus on reopening his Aulis site in Soho and his Lake District operations alongside establishing a nationwide delivery offering, Simon Rogan at Home. There are plans in the pipeline to reopen Roganic in London next year, at an alternative location, when Rogan and the team have a “clearer vision of the post-pandemic landscape”. The company said that Aulis, Rogan’s chef’s table located in St Anne’s Court, remains operational.

Shaftesbury reports £699.5m loss amid ‘widespread disruption’: Shaftesbury, the Real Estate Investment Trust that owns a 16-acre portfolio in London’s West End, has reported a loss after tax of £699.5m in the year ended 30 September due to ‘revaluation deficits’. For the six months to 30 September, it collected 53% of contracted rent, whilst 34% of rent was deferred and 13% is outstanding. Chief executive Brian Bickell said: “Rarely in history has the world seen such widespread disruption to normal patterns of life. Only now are we seeing the first positive signs that conditions will begin to improve in the year ahead. The pandemic has had a significant impact on our performance, particularly during the second half of the financial year, depriving our hospitality and retail occupiers of footfall and trade and resulting in reduced rent collections, increased vacancy, reduced occupier demand and a fall in property valuations. Our key priority has been, and continues to be, supporting our occupiers through this period of disruption. The economies of London and the West End have a long history of structural resilience, having weathered many episodes of challenge and uncertainty. Their unique features, which come from a culture of constant evolution across a broad-based economy, attracting talent, creativity, innovation and investment from across the world, will hasten their recovery and reinforce their enduring appeal to businesses, visitors and residents alike. The long-term prospects for our portfolio, located in the busiest and liveliest parts of the West End, are underpinned by these valuable qualities, together with the experience, innovation and enthusiasm of our team. Although near-term challenges will be with us throughout 2021, I am confident we are well placed, both financially and operationally, to return to long-term prosperity and growth as the current global and local pandemic disruption recedes into history.”

LoveHolidays to refund £18m owed to customers whose holidays were cancelled because of coronavirus: Following CMA action, LoveHolidays has committed to pay out over £18 million to customers waiting for money back after their holidays were cancelled due to coronavirus. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating LoveHolidays after receiving hundreds of complaints that people were still awaiting refunds. When customers contacted LoveHolidays to request a refund for a cancelled holiday, they were told they would only receive money back for their flights once the firm had received refunds from the respective airlines. Under the Package Travel Regulations, online travel agents are legally bound to refund customers for package holidays cancelled due to coronavirus, regardless of whether or not the agent has received money back from suppliers, for example airlines. Following CMA intervention, LoveHolidays has now signed formal commitments – known as undertakings – that ensure these customers receive all their money back. In total, over £18 million will be refunded to 44,000 LoveHolidays customers. Of this, so far £7m has been refunded to 20,000 customers. Having carefully reviewed LoveHolidays’ financial information, and how quickly it can realistically repay customers, the CMA has accepted LoveHolidays’ commitment to repay these customers in full by March 2021 at the latest. Insisting on earlier repayment would result in LoveHolidays dipping below its regulatory obligations. Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “Travel agents have a legal responsibility to make prompt refunds to customers whose holidays have been cancelled due to coronavirus. Our action today means that LoveHoliday’s customers now have certainty over when they will receive their money back and they will receive this without undue delay. We are continuing to investigate package travel firms and where we find evidence that businesses are breaching consumer law, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action to protect consumers.”

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