Owners of Bedford, N.S., mall refuse rent deferral for shuttered businesses

Krista Anderson is worried the business she built from scratch four years ago may not survive long enough to reopen, now that her landlord, Sunnyside Mall, has informed her it will not defer her rent under a program designed to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a business I’ve worked hard to build, you know, put everything into and I could risk losing it all,” said Anderson who’s been home since March 19, the day the province ordered her business closed to protect Nova Scotians from the spread of the virus.

Under orders from Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, the provincial government ordered the closure of hair salons, barbershops, spas, nail salons, body art establishments and gyms.

Anderson runs the iBrow and Laser Clinic and has been a tenant in the mall since November 2016.

Province appealing to landlords

The province is appealing to landlords to defer the rent of commercial tenants for up to three months and guaranteeing up to $5,000 a month to those landlords if that business doesn’t reopen. 

Carole Doman is an optometrist and part-owner of Eyes on Bedford, also located in Sunnyside Mall.

She would have liked the mall to do that so as not to have to drain her bank account. She said she would pay this month’s rent but wasn’t happy about it.

“I was hoping that the landlord would be willing to work with us,” she said. “I think long-term it’s not only my business but there’s restaurants, a gym, all those businesses that are forced to close. If we run out of cash, they’re not going to have any tenants.”

Doman said to remain viable as a business, she needed to eliminate her expenses.

“We need our costs to be as minimal as possible moving forward so that when we do start up again we’ll have some money there to pay payroll, to pay rent.”

Eve Arsenault is the owner of Carlo’s Barbershop, Shades of Pink Nail Salon and Shades Hair Studio. (Sunnyside Mall/Facebook)

Eve Arsenault, owner of Carlo’s Barbershop, and Shades of Pink and Shades Hair Studio didn’t think it was fair for the mall to refuse to go along with the province’s plan. 

According to a letter to tenants from the mall’s general manager, Lynn Chisholm, the company she works for, Avison Young, has determined it would be “unfair” to defer the rent of some tenants but not all.

“Based on our understanding of what the government is proposing with respect to this program, not all of the tenants in our shopping centre would be qualified and, in an effort to be fair and equitable to all of our valued tenants, we have made the difficult decision not to participate in that program,” said the note dated March 30.

Arsenault said the fact some tenants remain open while others have been forced to close is also unfair.

“Shoppers Drug Mart, Pete’s Frootique, they are open. They are making money.”

‘A lot of us fall between the cracks’

Although Premier Stephen McNeil has repeatedly talked about the importance of helping small businesses during the pandemic, Anderson said what he’s offered, to date, will not help her.

“His plan doesn’t cover our needs at all,” she said. “You know, nothing that he has put into place helps me whatsoever.”

“So a lot of us fall between the cracks.”

She’s not the only one disappointed with the aid package on offer from the province.

Doman called the province’s rent deferral plan “a step in the right direction” but also felt it wasn’t an “ideal plan” over the long term.

“It means you’re going to have to be paying higher rent down the road,” she said. “But at the present time, it [would be] helpful.”

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