Shops reopening after lockdown now fear council rent hikes
- Credit: Mike Brooke
A stretch of non-essential stores reopening this week after lockdown are facing an end to their rent freeze before they have a "chance to recover".
Members of the East End Trades Guild with premises owned by Tower Hamlets Council along Calvert Avenue say they face rent rises in the now-fashionable shopping street.
Kaoru Parri is one of three women running Luna & Curious jewellery and homeware store, which reopened on Saturday.
“This is not the right time," Kaoru told the East London Advertiser. "We appreciate rents need to be reviewed, but we’ve only just reopened — at least give us a chance.
“We have been trying to have talks with the council with the help of the trades guild. Yet we have continued paying rent even though we have been closed for months and still have to pay the bills while ticking over.”
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Calvert Avenue has become a fashionable shopping street, which could push up property market values.
Another trader on the road, fashion designer Sampson Soboye of boutique Soboye, has had to take out loans to get through the pandemic and now feels he needs a breather to get back on track.
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He said: “We’ve brought in new stock this week ready to reopen, but potentially this could still put us out of business after having to pay the bills and rent with the premises closed.”
Sampson recieved a £35,000 Bounce Back Loan to produce his new collection, but has to start repayments by August. He was also given a £10,000 council rates grant, which he says “helped a great deal but didn’t last long”.
Tower Hamlets Council pointed out it has not raised commercial rents in several cases "for the best part of a decade" and is "sympathetic to commercial tenants impacted by Covid-19 restrictions".
But a town hall statement to the Advertiser warns: "We are also facing financial challenges from Covid-19 and need to balance our role as a responsible landlord against generating income to support much-needed services.
"We advise organisations that may be having difficulties paying the rent to contact our asset management team.”
The traders were given council rent deferment until March while businesses had to be closed.
Only businesses deemed essential remained open, such as Leila's Shop run by Leila McAlister on Calvert Avenue.
However, even Leila was worried about price hikes because the council "is at liberty to raise rent to market rates at any point".
The traders along Calvert Avenue, with trendy Shoreditch High Street at one end and the famous Arnold Circus at the other, nevertheless are optimistic that the parade of shops is turning the corner.