Hatfield cafe owner steps up battle over huge rent hike

PUBLISHED: 13:38 08 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:46 08 April 2015

Erol's Cafe in White Lion Square

Erol's Cafe in White Lion Square

Archant

The owner of two Hatfield town centre cafes has enlisted a professional surveyor to contest massive rent demands for them.

Hasan Yunucu says he will have to close both Erol’s Cafe in White Lion Square and the Hatfield Coffee House in the nearby arcade unless the borough council drops its terms for renewed leases.

Mr Yonucu now pays £10,000 per year for each, but Welwyn Hatfield Council wants £29,000 for the coffee house, and £24,500 for the cafe, even though he will lose the latter’s first floor flat

Several other town centre shops face similar rent increases, which the council says are justified because the leases, recently acquired from property firm St Modwen, are years out of date.

Kirsty Harvey of KTD Surveying, who is negotiating with council officials on Mr Yonucu’s behalf, said: “Rents in better locations in Hatfield have been stagnant since at least 2010, which suggests those in White Lion Square should not be subject to unreasonable and excessive increases.

“To ensure town centres remain viable there needs to be greater collaboration between landlords and tenants, to ensure businesses are sustainable in the long term.

“Substantial rent increases are not in the interests of anyone, especially if it leads to more empty shops.”

However, she could not suggest a reasonable rent level before seeing he council’s evidence.

Nick Brown, chairman of Welwyn Hatfield Chamber of Commerce, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We do not believe for one second that 300 to 400 per cent increases in rent represent a fair market rent in White Lion Square.

“The Square, which is wholly owned by the council, continues to be in a disgraceful state of repair with boarded up windows and peeling paint.”

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