According to Marijke Weustink, Director of Real Estate and Facilities, the agreement has been ‘signed and sealed with 90 to 95 per cent of the businesses’. “The coronavirus is partly a business risk and partly a shared problem. That’s why we’ve made this gesture to offer the businesses a rent reduction.”

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Tostiworld, owned by Marc van Hooijdonk. Image credit: Amber Leijen

The rental on campus is equivalent to a top location, while turnover is really lagging behind. Marc van Hooijdonk from Tostiworld, the toasted sandwich joint in Food Plaza, is realistic about this.  “You know what you’re signing up for when you sign a rental agreement, and you should just honour your commitment. That’s part and parcel of running a business. We’re pleased with this agreement, but I think that most businesses aren’t. That’s partly because their losses are huge and turnover is really low. The majority had hoped for more, but that just wasn’t possible,” stated Marc van Hooijdonk from Tostiworld.

On welfare

In the meantime, Fikret Egemen from HAS kebab shop is certainly not finding things easy. After five good years, his business is really struggling. “This situation can’t go on for months,” stated Egemen. According to him, his business is running at around 20 to 25 per cent of the normal turnover. “You can’t even cover the rent with that. If turnover was around 40 per cent, then things would have been a lot easier for everyone. My business provides income for three families.”

Egemen has two employees, who ‘have thankfully received some compensation from the government’. “They’re earning more than I am now,” he added cynically. “I’m on welfare. I really can’t sleep because of it.” He wants to stay positive though. “My employees and I are doing everything we can to get through this period. That’s the only way. We need to do it together.”

Not closed, but hardly any customers

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Campus Bike didn’t have to close, but it is very quiet in the shop. Image credit: Amber Leijen

The bike shop Campus Bike (located behind Polak Building) is also finding things difficult. Catering establishments are eligible for all kinds of schemes because they were forced to close, but for the bike shop everything is more complex. “We didn’t have to close, but we still no longer had any customers,” explained Bram Hakkenberg from Campus Bike. The business pays 726 euro in rent per month, and the university offered a fifty per cent discount for April and May. But turnover has far from recovered: the business is currently only open for half the normal hours, as there’s no point opening for longer. Yet, he too remains optimistic: “We can survive for the time being, but may end up having to close for a while.”

Discount and deferment

According to the businesses, the university offered a 50 per cent rent reduction for April and May, when they were forced to close. The businesses could also choose to pay 10 per cent rent in April and May and then not have access to variable rent for the rest of the year. This variable rent is a percentage of business turnover. The businesses have also been offered a twelve-month deferral on payment. If they do decide to close the business, the university has promised to be flexible in handling the termination of the rental contract.

Weustink did not want to discuss the details of the agreement with businesses. “That’s something between the university and the businesses.” She did, however, state that a certain rent reduction and deferment of payment had been agreed. “We understand that times are hard for everyone. With so few people on campus, it is unrealistic to think that your turnover will be enough. This is partly a business risk and partly a shared problem. That’s why we’ve made this gesture to offer the businesses a rent reduction. The coronavirus will result in one party being able to survive and another going under. Unfortunately, we can’t take more measures for this than we’ve already taken.”

Not concerned about empty property

So far the university is not concerned about vacant properties in the event that some businesses decide to go ahead and leave. “We’ve received signals that there are other interested parties out there. But this is hard to predict and could just be a rumour. But at the same time, if a business isn’t surviving now, you wonder whether another business should step in straight away. From both the market and from our side, it might be wise to postpone things until we’re in a more economically interesting situation.” Weustink did not want to discuss whether the university would offer more compensation to businesses if the coronavirus problems continue. “With this agreement, we’ve mainly looked at the period in which cafes were forced to close. That’s the case right now too, although they can offer takeaways, so each situation is different. We’ll be re-examining this, but that doesn’t automatically mean that we’ll make new agreements next year.”

A virtually empty food court.

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