alternity bookstore

Toronto shop owner says landlord is asking for $100k in rent and he may have to close

A Toronto bookstore may be forced to close its doors after the landlord asked for thousands in back rent.

David Spiro, owner of Alternity bookstore at 333 Bloor Street West (home of the former Rochdale Project) tells blogTO his shop was closed for 18 months and just reopened about a month ago. They also serve food in the shop so Spiro says they weren't able to open earlier.

But before reopening, Spiro got the news that he would have to pay about $100,000 in back rent to the landlord, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).

Already paying nearly $6,000 a month since around 2011, Spiro is hoping the TCHC could give him a break.

"I've paid literally, at least $600,000 in rent over that period of time. I would expect some kind of, you know, consideration," Spiro tells blogTO.

Before lockdown measures started, the bookstore was able to cover the rent. But for the past 18 months he stopped paying, and sent the TCHC a deferment letter.

"We've literally been making zero since last April, and more a year, 18 months."

The shop did get government funding but that only covered insurance, utilities and some staffing costs, he says. He says TCHC wants all the funds he got from the government.

"They want that as a lump sum, which I don't have, obviously used that to keep my place afloat."

He added that they are offering a repayment plan — possibly adding to his rent — but he doesn't know the details yet. The TCHC contacted him about six months ago but are slow to work out the plan, he says. In the meantime, sales are weak and he doesn't have enough coming in to pay a higher monthly rent.

In a statement, the TCHC tells blogTO that "as a city corporation, Toronto Community Housing uses the rent from commercial spaces to provide shelter for low-income Toronto residents, including some of our city's most vulnerable and marginalized populations."

They say they have provided multiple supports for the tenant and communicated regularly about the payment requirements in their internal TCHC Rent Deferral Program for commercial tenants.

"While we continue to be here to work with the tenant to create a solution that meets their needs, we also have an obligation to consider the thousands of other tenants that rely on commercial rent income to help subsidize their basic housing needs," the statement reads.

But Spiro says he won't be able to keep the shop open if he has to cover the extra funds.

"It'll take many years to recover from that or never, you know, to have to start paying an extra 20 to 25 per cent, in an already a high rent, it will just be the end of that business."

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