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Property owner waives rent for restaurant tenants, asks them to pay their employees instead

The business owner stated that "it just seemed like it was the right thing to do" as restaurants struggle during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Property owner waives rent for restaurant tenants, asks them to pay their employees instead
Image Source: Getty Images (representative)

As vital as social distancing is to curb the spread of COVID-19, this (hopefully temporary) new way of life has taken a major toll on many businesses that have been experiencing a drastic drop in footfall and subsequently, income. The restaurant industry, in particular, has taken a heavy hit with cities requiring non-essential businesses to close during the coronavirus pandemic. As many restaurant owners find themselves having to make the difficult decision of either letting their employees go or holding their pay, one property owner is doing his bit to make things easier for his tenants.


Young Investment Co. LLC of Jonesboro, Arkansas, recently announced on Facebook that it is waiving next month's rent for its restaurant tenants. According to KAIT, the company’s downtown Jonesboro properties house several of the area's favorite restaurants including Eleanor’s Pizzeria, Roots, Main Street Coffee, The Parsonage, and City Wok. Instead of paying rent, Joe Clay Young—the president and CEO of Young Investment—urged restaurant owners to pay their employees and take care of their families during this difficult time. "Stay strong. We will get through this together," the post concluded.


Speaking to Arkansas Business about his kind gesture, Young stated that "it just seemed like it was the right thing to do." He added that he didn't think of the move as a choice but rather something his company simply had to do. Young revealed that the idea to waive rent for a month occurred to him after a tenant called him to ask whether he had cashed the March rent checks. When Young informed him that he hadn't gotten around to it yet, the tenant informed him of the drop in business and asked for his help. Aware of the issues restaurants are facing at the moment, the property owner tore up the check. However, he also realized that "this isn’t going away" any time soon and came up with the plan to waive April's rent for all his restaurant tenants.


John Myers—the co-owner/chef of one of the restaurants, The Parsonage—revealed that with people being confined to their homes, the restaurant has seen a major fall in revenue. "This past weekend, we saw a 60 percent cut in attendance in what we were bringing in revenue-wise," he said. Praising Young's act of kindness, Karl Lowe, the co-owner/executive chef of Roots, said "I’ve been in this industry for 27 years and I’ve never seen anything like this." Myers expressed similar sentiments, adding: "Mr. Young doing that for us this month... that money goes straight to the employees."


Meanwhile, Young believes not collecting April rent from the restaurants is good business for both them and his business in the long term. He explained that he has "incredible tenants" and would rather help them than risk seeing them shut down, leaving him to find replacements. Young hopes other landlords will follow suit and help their tenants in a similar manner if possible. "I think it's a no brainer in the sense of they have to look at the big picture and the long term … If they've got great tenants, then they should protect them. And work with them through whatever crisis or whatever is going on, but certainly, we've got great tenants, and we want to protect them. And we want them to stay with us for a long time," he said.


However, he is aware that many landlords don’t have the means to do what he did as they too have bills to pay. Although Young Investment has currently only waived rent for its restaurant tenants, the company might look into doing the same for other tenants if they experience difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. "I think it's a case-by-case basis. The restaurants are all closed, or closing down, or they're going to take-out [only]," said Young, adding that restaurants that go to take-out only are taking a 50% hit to their bottom line. Inspired by the property owner's kindness, other tenants have stepped up with offers to pay their April rents in advance if need be. 


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