NEWS COMMENT: Rent demand seems to be unfair in the extreme

It's always sad when a business closes, particularly if it is one to which people feel a personal attachment, such as restaurant, pub or perhaps an independent butcher or greengrocer.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 6:16 am
Updated Monday, 15th January 2018, 10:51 am
Franco and Paolo in Locks Heath village centre

In a world of identikit high streets and chain eateries – with all the horror that that word brings – a decent local restaurant is to be savoured. A treat after payday or for a special occasion, perhaps, but certainly a welcome break from the norm.

So how disappointing it is to learn that not only is a much-loved Italian restaurant run by two friends closing, but that it is shutting its doors unwillingly, due to a rent increase. It’s not the case that Franco and Paolo of Locks Heath want to retire or travel the world; they’re closing because they can’t afford a proposed rent increase.

The situation is sufficiently grave for Fareham’s council leader Sean Woodward to take up the cudgels on behalf of the shopping centre’s tenants, with apparently several having expressed concerns.

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Now, we understand that all businesses – whether serving pizza or providing restaurant space – must make a profit to survive. But what all businesses should also remember, in whatever sphere of the economy they operate, is that they all have an impact on all aspects of society, whether through providing employment, goods, or leisure. They do not exist in a vacuum – levying a huge rent increase to cover losses elsewhere is not a theoretical decision; as we have seen this weekend, it leads to job losses and closures.

Despite the original rent increase proposal of 65 per cent being whittled down to 40 per cent, that is clearly a steep increase, and the landlords must have known it could prove unsustainable.

We’ve seen in the last few days that even behemoth companies such as Carillion, with huge – and long-term – governmental contracts are not immune to trouble and can accrue debts. Every business has its own challenges. This is on a much smaller scale, but it certainly seems to be a greedy rent demand, and one that we are disappointed about.