Preston restaurant owner hits out after racking up £25,000 rent arrears for business he couldn't open during pandemic
A father-of-two says he has been plunged into depression and faces financial ruin after accruing more than £25,000 in rent arrears - for a restaurant he couldn't open.
Michael Evans signed a contract in January 2020 for a unit in Preston' s Miller Arcade, but the first national lockdown was announced for the day he was set to open.
>>>Click here to learn about the history of the Miller Arcade.
Despite not being able open burger and beer venue Smashed Preston for another five months, his landlord Callaway Estates Limited carried on charging him rent, which he didn't pay after confusion over an agreement.
Now the landlord is chasing him for an outstanding balance of £25,743.37 plus £3,433.46 interest and further interest of £5.71 for every day it is not paid.
A letter sent by solicitors Marsden Rawsthorn seen by the Post states that if Michael does not respond to the claim for debt before December 1, Callaway Estates could instruct court bayliffs or reposess the premises.
Michael says the move is "cruel", and wants other small, independent businesses to make a stand.
The 34-year-old from Thornton Cleveleys, said: "When we couldn't open, I emailed the landlord constantly, but I was ignored.
"Eventually, a meeting was held, and they told me that I had the Government grant. But the rent was dearer than that, and I had other things to pay, like insurance, water and loss of stock.
"I suggested a pause in rent until the end of the pandemic, or until we could trade normally, and they said it could be a good thing to do. I thought 'great, they're being sound', but then they never got back to me about it.
"I thought they'd paused stuff, but they obviously didn't".
Since receiving the letter, Michael says he has been in correspondence with the landlord and has made several suggestions on how to pay the money, including paying the full arrears for an extended lease, but says Callaway Estates are making unreasonable demands.
He says that he has taken legal advice and has until March to agree a way forward.
Michael said: "It's a possibility I could lose the business, I don't know where to turn. But it's not a failed business, that's the frustration.
"We are open, we are turning over a profit, we've been to the national burger awards and have a good following, but it's only a small premises and there's only so much revenue we can make a day.
"It's left me really, really depressed. Everything I've had I've put into that business.
"I've lost my mum, my niece, I've had health issues myself, and now because of all of this, I'm at my lowest and I'm in counselling.
"It's affecting my home life, because I'm not the same. My two children are 12 and 9 and they can tell."
He added: "But this isn't just about me, it's about all the other independent businesses who are going through the same thing with their landlords. Someone needs to make a stand."
The Post has approached Callaway Estates for a comment through their solicitors.