A PROPERTY agency accused of potentially putting a popular long-standing bookshop out of business has refused to say whether it will negotiate with the beleaguered owner – leaving him with an agonising wait.
As previously reported, Robert Smith, who runs Adelphi Books in Albert Road, Southsea, revealed he had been treated ‘aggressively’ and ‘unreasonably’ after being requested to pay a massive hike in his rent by Portsmouth based Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell.
Robert, who has owned the shop for 31 years, told The News he was left shocked after he was requested to pay £7,750 a year – despite currently paying £5,250.
Speaking of the proposed hike, Robert said: ‘It’s a huge increase for me. The increase is more than I can cope with. It is enormous. The whole thing has been so stressful and is very emotional for me.
‘I had an agent looking around the shop a year ago. They told me they had no idea how much rent they would charge me and the next thing I know I get a letter saying about the massive increase.
‘I’ve made (Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell) an offer which is double what the previous increase was but haven’t heard back from them.’
Robert, 61, now hopes to arrange a meeting with the agency this month with his supporters taking up the fight for him. ‘I need someone in my corner to stand up for me as I’m finding it very difficult. It’s been a very tough time in recent years with my partner dying and this has not helped at all,’ he said.
Speaking of the problems he has faced with Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell, he said: ‘They have been extremely difficult to deal with.’
Stuart Mitchell, director of Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell, confirmed via email to Robert he ‘would like to sort this within the first 10 days of the New Year’.
But when quizzed by The News, Mr Mitchell refused to be drawn on the saga. He said: ‘I will not be negotiating a settlement through the media.’
When asked if he was concerned that his agency’s suggested rent hike could force the shop to shut, he added: ‘I’m not commenting.’
Robert, 61, has been rallying support from customers and has a petition signed by over 100 people who want to see Adelphi Books stay open.
The shop owner added: ‘I was hoping to run the shop until I retire. If they had accepted a compromise then I could have wound the business down in an orderly fashion when the lease expires in January of next year.
‘I’ve started a petition which shows good support for the shop. A lot of people don’t want it to go.’
Supporter of Adelphi Books, Barry Bendel said: ‘The reality is that Robert Smith has always been ready to accept what might still have been an unfair and unreasonable increase in rent, but not to the level that (Stuart) Mitchell demands.
‘He is guilty of a blind error of judgment and a stubborn unwillingness to grasp that the extremely serious problems besetting Britain's High Streets, are also affecting the kind of people he represents.’