THE owner of a Bournemouth record shop says he will have to find it a new home because landlords will not reduce the rent despite the pandemic crisis.

Alan Rowett, of the Vault in Old Christchurch Road, says while major retailers are getting their landlords to cut or waive rents, small businesses are finding it more difficult to get any leeway.

He said government aid for small businesses have not covered the costs of being closed.

He fell behind with the rent last year and said he was being required to repay the arrears in full.

“We didn’t pay anything for a little while, especially during the first lockdown,” he said.

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“The government grant we got in the first lockdown will help. The second grant, which is £2,000 a month, doesn’t pay the rent. I’ve spoken to the landlord and they won’t budge at all.

“We pay £20,000 a year for it. The rating authority says the rateable value is £17,000 – we’re already paying over that. We’ve said ‘Let’s meet half way’ but they’re not interested one little bit.

“We’d like to stay in Bournemouth. We’re a very niche shop, we’re not a must-have. We took a gamble in coming here in the first place. If we ended up meeting half way, that would be good.”

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A host of big retailers have used the insolvency procedure called a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to pressure landlords into accepting drastically reduced rents. Others have negotiated reductions or not paid.

One of Britain’s major retail landlords, Hammerson – whose shopping centres include Southampton’s Westquay – revealed recently that it had only collected 41 per cent of the rent that was due in advance for the first quarter of 2021.

Mr Rowett said his business’s lease would run out in November and the landlord’s stance was prompting him to look for an empty unit in the town centre.

“We had to go with their proposal, which was to pay back monthly what we haven’t paid last year,” he said.

“Their view was ‘You signed a lease for five years at this payment, we don’t care what’s happening socially or on the high street or with the pandemic, you signed it, you pay it’.”

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He said the business had been helped by the support of the big record labels.

“Sony, Warners and Universal have been fantastic. They say ‘If you want to send anything back, send it back’. We’ve got 100 per cent sale or return,” he said.

The Vault is among a number of Bournemouth properties whose landlord is London-based Charlford Limited, whose directors are Barry and Naomi Ackerman.

The landlord said in a statement: “We look at each situation individually and strive to work collaboratively where possible. In nearly all situations we have succeeded but it takes both parties to be reasonable.

“Unfortunately and regrettably in some cases this doesn’t happen.”