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Kristin Murphy, KSL

Utah small businesses implore landlords for help as COVID-19 devastates their livelihoods

By Jasen Lee, KSL | Posted - Mar. 25, 2020 at 8:37 p.m.



MIDVALE — Small-business owners on the brink of financial ruin as a side effect of the coronavirus outbreak are imploring landlords for help as revenues dry up and hope for the future fades.

Standing in his shop Wednesday, Doug Jardine, co-owner of Color of Nails Salon in Midvale, said just a couple of weeks ago, his establishment employed 10 to 12 technicians and would serve customers throughout the day all week long. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated his business, with barely enough work for two technicians on this weekday.

Speaking into a camera to a Facebook Live audience and some members of the media on-hand in the salon, Jardine said his business and others in the Midvale strip mall are in financial peril and may not be able to make rent on their spaces without help from the property owner.

“This is about the survival of small business in Utah and across the nation,” he said. “We’re empty. In the last two weeks, our business is down at least 85% and business is going to be down 100%. The scenario is playing out in hundreds of thousands of small businesses in Utah and nationwide.”

As of this weekend, he said the salon will not charge its nail technicians any rent for the booth spaces they occupy “because it’s the right thing to do.” He added that some other business owners are also “taking the hit” and helping their own employees for the same reason.

“And so at this time, a question needs to be asked of the landlords across Utah and across our nation. Landlords, as small businesses trying to help our employees and outlast this incredible pandemic, what can you do for us and how will you help us?” he queried rhetorically.

With revenues down so significantly, Jardine and others are calling on landlords to offer a financial lifeline by allowing some concessions on monthly lease payments during the COVID-19 crisis. He said without some help, his business and others like it will be unable to sustain themselves through the uncertainty of the outbreak and public isolation orders.

“Our monthly lease for this salon is $5,000, plus electrical and all the other fees that go along with it,” Jardine explained. “Our business is down 80% to 90% and the landlord is calling for the rent to be paid in full by the fifth of next month. We simply cannot do it.”


Our business is down 80% to 90% and the landlord is calling for the rent to be paid in full by the fifth of next month. We simply cannot do it.

–Doug Jardine, co-owner of Color of Nails Salon


Steve Vincent, owner of Treasure Island Tanning in the same retail center, said the guidance to stay home is hurting his bottom line immensely.

“We’ll take a $30,000 hit this month. Next month will be even worse,” he said, flanked by five other business owners from the center. “We’re doing everything we can to help our employees out, as well as I’m sure everybody here, and we’re concerned about our landlord and getting the break that will be required to help us survive.”

Jardine said he has looked into applying for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan program that was launched last week, but worried about incurring extra debt in addition to his already burdensome monthly expenses and decreasing revenue stream.

“We want to do business, I’m sure all of us want to do business. We want to provide all the services that we can provide for our clients, but we simply cannot do that alone right now,” he said. “We need landlords in the state of Utah to step up and say, ‘Small business, we’re going to help you out.’”

A sign at Color My Nails in Midvale on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, directs clients to wash their hands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses are struggling with a loss of business due to the novel coronavirus. (Kristin Murphy, KSL)

In response to an inquiry from Jardine on March 16, property manager Woodbury Corporation sent an email statement from the property’s owner:

“We are all feeling the effects of the current health situation, however the landlord’s expectation is that full rent will be paid on time. It’s not the landlord’s responsibility to take on the business risk of our tenants. Unfortunately, we are receiving no relief from our mortgage lenders and do whatever we must to honor our commitments. To further complicate matters, our mortgage loans typically prohibit us from diluting the terms of an existing lease without their approval. Our hope is that this is a short term bump in the road and that business will return to normal as soon as possible.”

Woodbury also issued a separate statement to KSL.

“As the economic situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve at a rapid pace, Woodbury Corporation is actively engaged with all the landlords for which it manages properties to best navigate the inevitable financial burdens to all parties. Property owners throughout the country are having similar struggles as their tenants are actively looking into all avenues for relief.”

The statement also pointed to inflexibility from mortgage lenders, and noted state and federal relief packages are designed to assist businesses rather than landlords.

“This is uncharted territory for all involved, and we are all in this together as we seek to find solutions to get the economy up and running again. At this time, we are not placing any of our tenants on default,” the statement said.

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