Delight for Pinewood Cafe owners as 1,000 per cent rent increase plan is scrappedBy Becky Barnes
January 24, 2013
Jubilant café owners are breathing a sigh of relief after plans for a 1,000 per cent rent increase were withdrawn.
Andy and Pauline Jordan, who run Pinewood Bar and Café, can afford to stay open after discovering on Monday their annual rent would not rocket to £22,000 from £2,000, as proposed by Wokingham Without Parish Council.
Andy, 58, who took over the café in Old Wokingham Road, nearly three years ago, said: “It gave us a bit of a scare, but they have now reduced our rent to a very reasonable rate.”
The couple were gobsmacked and said they would be forced to close when the council told them the rent increase would be imposed within two weeks of a letter sent last September.
At the time, they were ‘absolutely gutted’ and ‘in complete shock’ as they expected the rent to double or treble after enjoying reduced rent to get the café on its feet.
Public outcry and a 2,500-signature petition from loyal customers meant the rent hike was put on hold by councillors in October.
Andy and Pauline offered to pay £6,000 a year, which they said is more in line with other premises at The Pinewood Centre, and this was accepted at the council’s meeting this week.
Andy added: “It was quite a hairy meeting but it was agreed rent will go up by £500 each year and be reviewed after two years, which is what we were told in the beginning.
“These shenanigans have gone on for nothing – £22,000 was ridiculous.
“Thankfully they have seen sense and the majority of councillors are happy – there were still some really quite upset about it who seem to think we are getting a very reduced rent compared to others but they are in Crowthorne High Street, which is a very different kettle of fish.”
Although the looming decision has meant the pair have put further improvements on hold after already investing £75,000 of life savings on refurbishments, a positive for them has been the public support.
Andy said: “Support from the community has been really heartwarming – we get asked nearly every day how it is going and people genuinely thought we were going to close.
“We would like to say a heartfelt thanks for everybody’s support and concern.”
Pauline, 54, added: “We are relieved more than anything – it stopped us doing so much because we didn’t want to spend money if we were about to close.
“People have been really great. We had people writing to the council saying what an asset we are. To continue as a business we need their support.”
In a bid to increase revenue to keep up with the new rent, the café will open at 8am instead of 9am from Monday to Friday.
A Wokingham Without Parish Council spokeswoman said independent professional advice to increase the rent to £22,000 had been taken in 'good faith' but was found to be unsustainable.
She said: "On realisation of the potential harm that could be caused to this business, and the impact that its loss would have on the Pinewood community, the council took immediate action to postpone the new rent until a full review could be conducted.
"This review closely involved the Bar and Café proprietors and included the sharing of financial information that was not previously available.
"Based on the greater understanding reached, the council is pleased to have been able to agree a lower rent for a further two year term whilst still meeting its responsibility to local rate payers.
"The council regrets the anxiety this matter has caused the bar and café proprietors and to the other organisations on the Pinewood site."