Future of shop at risk over rent rise
A FAMILY business which celebrates its 40th birthday in December is facing closure after being told to pay an extra £160 in rent every month.
The Womble Inn has been feeding the mouths of hungry shoppers in Newcastle town centre since 1972.
But now owner Chris Woods says he cannot afford to pay £23,750 per year in rent when the shop's lease is renewed in March – almost £2,000 more than what he currently pays his landlord.
Chris, who lives in Preston and travels more than 60 miles to work at the Ironmarket shop six days a week, said he was 'mortified' when he was told about the hike.
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He said: "There is no way I can make a rise like that viable and as things stand, we have no choice but to shut down.
"The previous lease was signed when times were good but now the footfall has significantly reduced in the town due to the recession and our takings are down between 10 and 20 per cent every week.
"The last thing I want to do is close the shop, but I won't be left a choice as things stand."
The shop, which sells hot and cold food and refreshments, has three other branches in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, Sale in Greater Manchester and Northwich in Cheshire.
Compared to the £23,750 rent being charged in Newcastle, the other stores pay no more than £12,000 in rent per year to their landlords.
The building is owned by Newcastle-based company MIC Properties Limited, run by 47-year-old Mo Chaudry and his wife Ann.
Mr Woods, a 43-year-old father-of-one, said: "I spoke to Ann earlier in the year and told her we were struggling because of how things were so if anything, I was hoping for a reduction in rent.
"My dad opened the first shop in Newcastle across from the Roebuck Centre nearly 40 years ago, and I used to go there when I was five years old to help out with the washing in the back.
"We've been at our current home for the last 30 years and I've got to know the customers so well, they've become friends now.
"I also employ three full-time staff but I am going to have to make them redundant if we shut."
MIC has acquired around 70 commercial properties over the last 20 years.
Mr Chaudry said he could not discuss lease arrangements with individual businesses.
But he added: "We have a lot of tenants from small to large companies and we have always taken a very pragmatic and cooperative approach with them, and have rarely had businesses fail or close.
"We have done everything possible to look after the current tenant, as we do with all our other tenants."
"When a business goes under it is usually nothing to do with rent, but because the business itself is broken."