The Wellington Pub Company, which has a portfolio of 750 pubs and is owned by the billionaire Reuben brothers is demanding full rent from some of its pub tenants who have not traded since March.
The pub group has now been accused by many tenants of being ruthless in refusing to cut rents due on premises closed as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regional media outlets all over the UK are reporting on pub closures resulting directly from the intransigence.
ITV News recently interviewed one tenant, Kate Ahrens, who has rented and run the Geese and Fountain in Leicestershire, since 2015. She told the reporter: “We took on this pub when it had been shut for four years. We have scrimped and saved and, on a shoestring, built it up to what it is now. And we were maybe, maybe, just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of just making a little bit of money for us. That’s gone.
“And, you know, that’s fundamentally, that’s the choice I’m looking at, is either be completely skint for years or be completely bankrupt.”
Joanne Antick another Wellington tenant who runs the King’s Arms in Brentford, West London, told The Guardian: “I really don’t understand, how can we pay rent when we don’t have any income? I really hope that they realise we just can’t do this. I will go under.”
Many other similar experiences have been reported around the country prompting one MP, Sir Bernard Jenkin, to speak directly with the Reuben family on behalf of Wellington tenants in his constituency of Harwich and North Essex.
A spokesperson for Wellington Pub Company then issued a statement saying: “Wellington is a standalone business and has obligations in the form of a securitisation for which payments must be made quarterly.
“We can confirm that rent was invoiced in June in accordance with lease/tenancy agreements in place and other legal requirements. The invoices were sent out with a covering note and reference to the publicly available statement explicit that action against rental arrears arising solely due to the closure period of pubs caused by Covid-19 will not be taken.
“The number of properties involved means it takes time to contact all tenants and this exercise is ongoing.”
It would seem from the statement that the Wellington Pub Company is being intentionally vague and looking to hide behind Government legislation. It would also seem that in the weeks and months ahead a portfolio of 750 pubs will become smaller and less valuable. Insisting that money simply not available to tenants as a direct consequence of no customers and empty tills is puzzling.
Reopening: Measure twice cut once
Wellington Pub Company intransigence – 26 June 2020 – Wellington Pub Company tenants closing due to rent intransigence