COUNCIL officials told struggling seafront businesses not to ask for any help with their rents during the months they will be closed because of the coronavirus.

An email sent to businesses such as Urban Beach, West Beach, Hot Rocks and a string of seaside kiosks told them they should pay up as stipulated in their leases.

The leader of BCP Council has acknowledged that the email from the estates department created “bad feeling” and said the council would be open to talking to tenants.

The email said: “We are currently getting a number of enquiries from tenants due to the current pandemic and I’m sorry to hear that things are becoming difficult.”

But the next sentence, underlined and in bold type, said: “The council is currently unable to enter into rent free or rent holiday periods, with rents needing to be paid in accordance with the terms of your lease.”

It acknowledged that the council was not allowed to evict tenants for non-payment over the next three months and directed them towards government-backed loans and grants. The email prompted Mark Cribb, owner of the Urban Guild group, to record a video message to council leader Vikki Slade and chief executive Graham Farrant.

“We’re all technically insolvent, in administration, at the moment. We have no cash, we will not come out of this without government support and I know that’s probably the same for you guys, you’re all going to need government support,” he said.

“The trajectory at the moment is we may only get to open for July and August this year, at best, that’s I guess our presumption, and there’s no way we can trade enough in 60 days to save the cash to get through next winter.”

He implored the council to “work together” with business, adding: “I appreciate your challenge but even if we wanted to, we cannot pay you.”

He added: “I’ve got 15 years left on my lease. That means I want to give you, and I should be giving you, £1.5million-ish in the next 15 years and I want to do that and if we all go under across the seafront, it’s going to have a big implication.”

Rob Shearman – who operates the Chineside cafe at Durley Chine, a kiosk at Middle Chine and Boscombe Pier’s takeaway and shop – said: “It was a shock because there was no phone call or anything from the council, just an email. We’ve paid our rent for 20 years. All of a sudden this email has put a bad taste in my mouth. We’re all hopefully going to open again and get some of the summer, but we will need to talk. That wasn’t a good time for that email to be sent out.”

A statement from council leader Cllr Vikki Slade said: “We are all trying to manage in this unprecedented, rapidly changing and exceptionally challenging time.

“We are all facing similarly tough conditions and are doing our utmost to support businesses especially those in the local tourism trade, whilst also protecting front line council services.”

She said: “As a landlord, we are open to talking to tenants about issues they face in making their rental payments. In the current circumstances we are able to offer tenants the option to pay rent on a monthly basis instead of a quarterly one.”

She said council resources were stretched and “we will not be able to answer every enquiry immediately”.

Cllr Slade added: “I hope this goes some way to alleviating the concerns and bad feeling our recent communications may have caused.’’