A Maple Ridge restaurant owner that had to close her business because of the COVID-19 pandemic was told she is ineligible for the federal rent assistance program because she is located in a government building.
Sally Kang, owner of Sushi Eben-Ezer, located in the Maple Ridge Business Centre at 22470 Dewdney Trunk Road, owes her landlord four months of rent since COVID-19 restrictions forced her to close the doors to her business on March 17.
She has been in business at that location for one year.
“So I couldn’t pay rent from March to June 2020,” explained Kang.
“I asked the landlord, who is City Hall, to pay rent with CECRA but the landlord said it is impossible because my business is located in a government building,” she said.
“I think it is ridiculous,” added Kang.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program was established by the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, to allow eligible commercial property owners to reduce rent for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 by a minimum of 75 per cent from April to June or forgive it entirely.
However, Kang’s landlord is the City of Maple Ridge.
City property manager Darrell Denton confirmed that under the federal guidelines, the city along with both provincial and federal landlords, are unable to participate in the government rent relief program because the property is owned by the municipal government.
However, he said, the city and the city’s property management company, Warrington PCI, is encouraging all tenants of the Maple Ridge Business Centre to continue exploring other options with federal and provincial relief programs designed to help business owners and employers, alike, because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The city, along with all other municipalities across the province, noted Denton, operate under identical legislative framework, the Community Charter, that prohibits the city from offering benefits or direct financial assistance to businesses.
“This limits our capacity to take steps that a private property owner would be able to enact based on the federal aid programs announced,” said Denton.
The city has offered tenants of the business centre the opportunity to participate in a rent deferral program, under which they will be able to defer their rent until “such time as their businesses situation improves” after signing an amended lease document.
“While specific tenants may be in default of their lease obligations, the Maple Ridge Business Centre has no plans to undertake any punitive actions and expects to work with each tenant to determine a go-forward plan that respects the interests of all parties,” said Denton.
“We will work collaboratively with our tenants to help us all get through this challenging time,” added Denton.
Kang’s husband James McDevitt says they need help.
“If we don’t get that help, then we can’t pay rent and we’ll be evicted,” he said.
Currently they are open for business, but, he said, they are having the same issues as other restaurants like capacity and socially-distanced seating.
But, added McDevitt, the main issue is being eligible for this program.
“I am a regular business owner. I work alone. I don’t serve government sushi. The only difference between my sushi business and other sushi businesses is my location,” said Kang.