Coal Drops Yard, part of the King's Cross estate
Coal Drops Yard, part of the King's Cross estate © Alamy

The landlord of London’s King’s Cross development is to waive rent for three months, in an effort to relieve the pressure piling on retail and leisure tenants, including Waitrose and Nike, hit by the coronavirus slowdown.

Stores, restaurants and bars on the 67-acre King’s Cross estate in London will not have to pay rent for three months from March 25, whether they remain open or are forced to close. Argent, the developer and owner of the estate, will continue to collect service fees.

The move comes as in the past week restaurant chain Carluccio’s and department store group Debenhams said they were seeking talks for rent holidays to help soften the impact of coronavirus on sales. Argent is the first big landlord to offer a rent-free period to its tenants.

“This is for every retailer, restaurant and leisure business [on the estate] — those operators that have had to close because London is on high alert. This is the only real measure available to us to help,” said James Rayner, Argent’s retail lead.

The waiver only applies to businesses on Argent’s London estate, as well as a number of smaller, independent retailers and restaurants. Businesses in the developer’s Birmingham and Manchester portfolio will continue to pay rent.

With expectations of a citywide lockdown high, many retailers and restaurants are anticipating potential lengthy closures.

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“Everyone is going to get a haircut on their revenue. Landlords are no different,” said Ted Rosner, co-founder of Redemption Roasters, which has a coffee shop on Argent’s estate. He estimates that monthly revenues for the company, which has five London outlets, are down about 80 per cent this month on normal trading, and three-quarters of staff have been asked to take unpaid leave.

“If everything shuts, revenues will be down at zero,” he added.

Argent’s King’s Cross estate hosts “a lot of very small, niche retailers which will be facing massive cash-pressure. You don’t want to be seen as a landlord who screwed them. You either put them into administration or you offer the rent holiday,” said one retail expert who did not want to be named. “This is a pain-sharing exercise,” he added.

“These are unprecedented times for us all, and we expect there will be a significant impact on our lives over the coming months. At King’s Cross, we want to be able to support you as much as we can during this period of uncertainty,” wrote Mr Rayner, in an email to businesses on the estate seen by the Financial Times.

Additional reporting by Jamie Powell

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