A popular Halifax restaurant is closing its doors for good, becoming the latest small business in the city to shut down permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studio East confirmed Friday it would not reopen when the rest of the province does. Closed since the beginning of government health restrictions, it has been unable to pay its rent.
Co-owners and brothers André and Guy Pratt say they’ve invested all their savings in the restaurant and are heartbroken to let it go.
“We’re saddened, this is our dream and this is what we believed in,” Guy told Global News.
“We’re young but we’re eager to work hard and no matter what we won’t give up on our dreams.”
Studio East opened on Cunard Street in 2015 and specializes in Asian Fusion cuisine. The brothers said they had hoped to re-open after the pandemic, but have not been able to reach an agreement with their landlord.
“We’re going to try and find different ways of serving our food because we still want to be able to serve the great food that we had,” said André.
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“We were known for the food, so we’re just gong to try and find different ways, whether it be home meal replacement or just doing mini-events with other chefs in the city.”
In April, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), which provides forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50 per cent of three monthly payments that would normally come from their small business tenants.
Those loans will be forgiven if the mortgaged property owner agrees to reduce the eligible small business tenants’ rent by at least 75 per cent for the three corresponding months under a rent forgiveness agreement.
That includes a pledge not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place, and a commitment from the small business tenant to cover the remaining 25 per cent of rent.
Bill Pratt, André and Guy’s father and a co-owner of Studio East, said the landlord would not agree to waive that 25 per cent, but rather defer it for one year.
In a May 7 email to Bill, a copy of which was provided to Global News, the landlord offers to defer the 25 per cent “rent shortfall” for 12 months, with repayments beginning Jan. 1 2021.
“This will provide you the opportunity to get the business up and running successfully and give you time to prepare the adjustment to your monthly rent payments,” wrote Abe Salloum.
Without any income for the time being, Bill said Studio East couldn’t afford for those bills to pile up.
Salloum did not return a request for comment on this story by deadline.
— With files from The Canadian Press