Commercial rent relief plan gave businesses hope, but landlords reluctant to participate

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Bill Pratt hasn’t paid some $70,000 in rent for his restaurants in Atlantic Canada since April after having to shutter operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing a “critical” sales drop.

“There’s no way I can make it,” said Pratt, the CEO of Chef Inspired Group of Restaurants and Food Trucks. “I can’t pay 100 per cent rent with no income.”

When the federal government announced a new measure aimed at reducing rent for small businesses by three quarters, it sparked hope of survival among restaurateurs like Pratt. However, without buy-in from landlords — some of whom have decided to take a wait-and-see approach due to what they say is a lack of clarity — the program will fail to provide relief to those who need it most.

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The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program will allow landlords to apply for government funds to cover half of rent payments for small businesses, up to $50,000 a month, with tenants paying 25 per cent. Landlords would forfeit the remaining 25 per cent.

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Pratt deals with seven landlords across 10 locations for his 22 restaurants spread out across Nova Scotia,

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