West End landlord refusing to sign up for commercial rent subsidy
VANCOUVER -- Before the pandemic, it was common to see a line up outside Espana, a popular tapas restaurant in the Vancouver’s West End. It's now re-opened at 50 per cent capacity, and while regulars are starting to come back, it's difficult for owner Edward Perrow to pay the bills.
“We’re down probably about 55, 60 per cent from what we’d normally be selling,” said Perrow.
When he learned the federal government would cover half of his $10,000 monthly rent as part of a COVID-19 subsidy and he’d only be on the hook for 25 percent, he was thrilled.
“I thought this is amazing. You know if I have to pay $2,500 a month rent for the time I was closed, that’s something we can work around, we can manage it,” he said.
But his landlord would need to agree to forfeit 25 per cent of the rent, and on Monday he learned she’s refusing to sign on to the rent subsidy program.
“It’s really frustrating to just be turned down point blank like that,” said Perrow. “She’s not involved in the community, she doesn’t live here and I don’t think she really has a lot of compassion or empathy for the small businesses.”
There are several other restaurants in the building and they’ve all been told they won’t be getting the subsidy.
“It seems to me that not accepting this is very short sighted,” said Felipe Ramos, the owner of Rio Brazilian Steakhouse. “None of us will be here next year if she doesn’t go with this, I really doubt it.”
The landlord did not respond to inquires from CTV News. The president of the B.C. Restaurant Association Ian Tostenson says the rent subsidy program needs an overhaul.
“The federal government needs to put more power into the hands of the business owner to effect it. Right now the landlord is saying you know what? I don’t really have to do this,” said Tostenson.
The landlord for Espana and the other restaurants in the Denman street building has agreed to defer rent for three months, but expects it all paid back by the end of the year.
“At 50 percent capacity, we’re gonna struggle to make our regular rent from now on, let alone trying to catch up on $30,000 while we were closed,” said Perrow. “The future doesn’t look very good to be honest.”