Landlord responds after much-loved Chesterfield business ceases trading

A landlord says ‘it is misleading to be accused of imposing a 50 per cent non-negotiable rent increase’ – after a treasured business in Chesterfield town centre closed.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 3:36 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 3:46 pm

As reported over the weekend, Claire Wood, owner of Stephensons Tea and Coffee House and bed and breakfast, said trading had ceased following three lockdowns and now a ‘non-negotiable 50 per cent rent increase’.

In a lengthy statement, a spokesperson for Sycamore Estates – which is owner and landlord of the Stephenson Place building – said: “Firstly, I would like to state that I was saddened by Claire’s decision to close both businesses but respect the fact she did not want to take on more debt during these uncertain times.

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Stephensons' owner Claire Wood pictured last year.
Stephensons' owner Claire Wood pictured last year.

“I must start by stating that the coffee shop and B&B are two separate businesses, with the B&B starting in 2018 following an investment of £150,000 by myself to relocate the coffee shop and create three B&B rooms.

“This was Claire’s vision which I fully supported with the huge financial investment in the building.

“Claire entered into a formal seven-year lease in 2018 for the B&B which was structured so that the full rent would not be payable until April 2020 allowing her 18 months to establish the business.

“She also had the option to break at any time with four months’ notice.

“However, due to the pandemic I delayed invoking the full rent and left it at the reduced level.

“Furthermore, in January 2021 I reduced the rent further which was now equivalent to 50 per cent of what was actually due as per the original lease.

“Following further discussions I refused Claire’s request for the now 50 per cent rent reduction to continue until the business was back to pre-pandemic levels and instead proposed that while she could continue to pay the reduced rent, from April 2021, the rent arrears would accrue which she could pay back over the next couple of years as the business recovered.

“Therefore it is misleading to be accused of imposing a 50 per cent non-negotiable rent increase after giving Claire a temporary 50 per cent rent reduction when she was aware of her obligations as part of the original lease signed in 2018 and giving her the opportunity to pay the difference over time helping with cash flow.”

They added: “I hope this gives a more balanced picture of the story and clearly explains that a 50 per cent rent increase was not imposed, just a return to the terms of the original lease from 2018 following a period of financial support on top of the non-refundable grants and other support measures given by the Government which were all fully claimed by both businesses.

“As for my plans for the building, I will be advertising the premises and am confident that someone will resurrect both businesses that were successful before the pandemic and have huge potential for growth.”

The Derbyshire Times sent Sycamore Estates’ statement to Ms Wood, who wanted to point out that ‘despite pressure from the public’ she had ‘remained totally confidential about who my landlord is, and not disclosed his details to anyone’.