Thursday, December 4, 2008

Golden mile rents 'crippling' retailers

Anne Marie O'CONNOR Wexford People

EMPTY SHOP units in middle of Wexford's golden mile Main Street are seeking rents of up to ¤245,000 per annum.

The unit, formerly occupied by Joyce's in the centre of the town, is currently being offered for let. But anyone considering the lease must be prepared to pay nearly ¤5,000 a week in rent alone.

Smaller vacant units for let at the moment include the former Wool Shop at South Main Street now owned by Bobby O'Neill, and the jewellers shop once occupied by Laurence Woods. Each of these premises can be rented for ¤100,000 per annum.

At a time when the business community are calling on the local authority to adopt a rates freeze, Cllr. George Lawlor has lashed back saying the cost of rents are what's crippling the retailers in Wexford.

'We have heard calls from some sectors for the local authority to freeze or cut rates, however when you examine the cost of doing business in Wexford it is clear that the rent being changed by landlords to business is colossal,' he said.

'I have spoken to business perople who have told me of the figures they are paying at present. One restaurant on the Main Street is paying ¤50,000 per anum in rent, while another small shop is paying ¤32,000. Some of the bigger outlets are playing well in excess of ¤250,000 in rent,' he added.

Calling on landlords to review what they charge tenants during the economic downturn, Cllr. Lawlor said they had to 'be realistic in their rental demands'.

'We have a lot of empty premises on our Main Street at the moment. It is my belief that they are not empty because of Local Authority rates, but because of the huge rents being asked for. It is time that landlords become realistic and give their tenants a break. They have had it good for a long time now, they must strongly consider reducing rental charges in an effort to keep a strong and vibrant Main Street alive.'

As a business owner himself, Cllr. Lawlor said that he himself pays ¤3,000 per annum in commercial rates to Wexford Borough Council.

'Wexford Borough Council continues to invest in the Main Street. We will have spent ¤7 million on repaving whien it's finisted. We have transformed Selskar Suare and we continue to spend over ¤500,000 a year on street cleaning throughout the town. Some of the landlords on the Main Street won't even replace chutes and downpipes that are broken despite the fact that they are making huge profits on rental income,' he said.

Wexford Chamber of Commerce, however, are still hoping for a rates freeze by Wexford Borough Council when they complete their budget estimates later this y ear.

'We would certainly object to any increases in the rate, as they certainly won't help business in the current climate. All increases are going to be difficult to take,' she said.

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