Irish chemist chain Hickey's Pharmacy has clashed with international property giant Hines over its rent in Grafton Street, Dublin.
Hines, which owns more than €3bn worth of property in Ireland, demanded full payment of Hickey's €43,000 Grafton Street rent for the month of April after the head of the pharmacy said it could only pay 10pc of the total until after the Covid-19 crisis.
Pharmacy chain owner Paddy Hickey subsequently wrote to prominent politicians describing the exchange with his Grafton Street landlord. "It is reminiscent of the 19th century rack-renting landlords that we all learned about in school, and which, if unchecked, will inevitably lead to the failure of Irish family-owned businesses like ours, and the consequent tsunami of job losses," he wrote.
Hickey had initially written to Frank Martin, the managing director of Hines in Ireland, describing the "shock" to the business due to pandemic restrictions and "nearly zero footfall" in the Grafton Street area.
"The impact on our business has been catastrophic," he wrote.
"We are therefore seeing a very dramatic and constantly deteriorating drop in our sales, and sales of non-medical products have essentially disappeared."
The Grafton Street rent had already been "exorbitant" before the crisis and the store had been subsidised by other parts of the business. Hickey told Martin that the pharmacy would pay 10pc of the rent until the crisis ended.
Hines responded by saying "while we understand the unprecedented circumstances that currently prevail, we are not in a position to consent to any variations to existing lease terms and conditions (including rent payment obligations)".
In a subsequent statement to the Sunday Independent, Hines said it was "seeking to support our tenants during this difficult time in order to successfully navigate through this unprecedented period and we are not seeking to place any unreasonable demands on tenants".
It added: "It is very difficult at this point to predict the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on retail operations. However, we are open to discussing each situation individually so that we can collaboratively work out how to progress." Hines said it was "in equally close dialogue with our investors and financial institutions to keep them advised of the current situation, and of the impact on the retail business generally and our retailers".
Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews said the Government needed to do more to help retail businesses in such situations.
Sunday Indo Business