Desperate business owners at Elliot Stables food court are crowdfunding for legal fees to fight for an injunction as they face threats of closure from their landlord.
The group has now engaged a lawyer and a started a Givealittle page in the hope of raising the $30,000 it needs for its legal battle.
Luis Cabrera, who owns Latin American eatery Besos Latinos, says a meeting he and the group's lawyer Kate Sheehan had with the landlord, the Icon Group, last Tuesday failed to reach a resolution.
He said of the 13 businesses, four had extended their leases in order to get extra rent relieve and seven had been issued with Property Law Act (PLA) notices and given 30 days to pay their arrears or face further action.
The besieged businesses have for months been struggling from the impact of low foot traffic because of the Covid-19 lockdowns and City Rail Link construction, and have not been able to pay their monthly rents and operating expenses.
Icon group's general manager Denise Kyne did not return the Herald's messages and emails on Sunday.
Cabrera said the city had been a ghost town and his eatery had just two customers yesterday.
"The landlord has asked me for a structured plan of repayment, but I don't even have money left to pay power and taxes after paying staff," Cabrera said.
"The construction work is making it impossible for people to come to the city, more are working from home, there is just no business."
Cabrera said last week his takings were about $4000 but his staff payroll alone was $3800, leaving him just $200 to cover all other expenses including rent.
"It's now cheaper for us to just shut our businesses rather than to keep them open," he said.
Cabrera said he was appealing to the landlord for a rent reduction - at least over the CRL construction period - but had been told they would not negotiate.
The tenants had been served legal notices by The Icon Group through a number of lawyers, costing them about $1700 each.
Cabrera said most of the tenants have until late October to pay what they owe or face being locked out.
"We are now just placing our faith on our lawyer and hope she can help," he said.
Lawyer Kate Sheehan said in an email she had been instructed to act for the tenants who, as a group, were seeking an injunction or stay of enforcement of the PLA.
"They are clearly in an economically dire situation. In the absence of the landlord's willingness to negotiate any further rent relief, the courts are the last bastion of hope," Sheehan said.
Sheehan said the Government's arbitration funding of $6000 to help businesses negotiate disputes with their commercial landlords was also a case of "too little too late".
"Given that it only applies to tenants who have not had any previous rent relief at all will not apply to the majority of tenants, rendering the package anything but useless," she added.
A Givealittle page has been set up by one of the affected business owners, Michael LeRoy-Dyson, who runs the Attic Backpackers on the top floor of the building.
"Not only have we lost our customers which means we have no revenue, but our landlord is demanding payment and threatening to takeaway our businesses, homes and livelihoods," the page says.
"We have a lawyer who is willing to take on the big guys and fight our battle with us. We need assistance to fund the legal fees and costs. This has been estimated at $30,000, but any amount of money will help."
As of Sunday afternoon, 21 donors had given $1015.
The Icon Group told the Herald in June it had offered tenants rental relief worth about $675,000.
Link to the Givealittle page https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/small-business-help