By Zoe Jewell, editor
A restaurant in Granville Arcade has become the latest business to be threatened by a hefty rent increase from landlords.
Victor Greetham of pizza joint Agile Rabbit is in negotiations with landlords In Shops, which is owned by Europe-wide company Groupe Geraud, over a proposed 56 per cent rent increase. The deal on the table would see his payments increase from £10,000 a year to £15,600. On top of this, Victor’s service charge would rise from £5,324 to £7,391.10 per annum.
Victor opened Agile Rabbit three years ago and was one of the first of the wave of new food venues that has followed since 2010. “The fact is we’ve been in business here for three years, coming at it from scratch. They were giving spaces for free in an attempt to rent it out at the time. We played a very major role in the success that it has become,” he says.
Philip Lamb, property manager at In Shops, said: “The figure we have suggested is a starting point for a negotiation. Like all prudent landlords when we commence a lease renewal negotiation we assess the value of the rights granted in the lease as if the property were to be offered with vacant possession.”
“At this moment in time we are awaiting a counter offer from Victor for a renewal of the lease in what is now undoubtedly a more attractive and valuable market within which he currently occupies his unit. Once we have received the counter offer we can commence a proper negotiation with him.”
Greetham described a difficult first few years in the market in which he put in a lot of investment up front to get Agile Rabbit going. “I’d like to retain my staff and continue to pay them a London Living Wage but that will be increasingly not possible if the rent increases.”
“That is only half the story from my perspective, because we currently pay £80 each week on top of this for the right to be in the market until midnight Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That is £4160 a year.”
For Victor, the success of the market in the media and for some of the other restaurants hasn’t necessarily meant that he is more able to pay a higher rent. “If we’re all supposed to make as much money as Honest Burgers by selling food, that’s asking a lot. They’re [In Shops] setting the bar at a level that reflects the busiest restaurant on the busiest night in the year. This is the argument I am becoming familiar with from them.”
Many of the traders fear that rising market rents will make it impossible for them to stay and although Victor is on a contract with a lease, newer traders are on zero notice contracts which make their situation even more precarious.
Victor feels there is a clash between what traders see as a community market and what he believes In Shops see as a money-making endeavour. “If the government or council were to try to levy those kinds of charges on a new business, it wouldn’t be allowed. Why should a private company need to do so? Why do In Shops or Groupe Geraud shareholders matter more than the community we’ve served for years?”
The final conclusion on Victor’s rent is yet to be reached and they are still in negotiation.