Nova Scotia business owner ‘concerned’ over struggle to pay rent during coronavirus outbreak

With bills to pay, small businesses are feeling the crunch amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a small business owner, the list of things to consider for Devin Sherrington each month is a lengthy one.

Running three fitness centres means that on top of staffing, payroll, and membership sales, there’s also workout class programming and one-on-one personal training sessions with clients.

It’s a lot to juggle but the 20 plus year veteran of the fitness industry knows how to handle it.

The uncertainty facing his and many other small businesses, though, is a different matter.

“Everybody, even the ones that are big dogs and make a lot of money, are very, very concerned,” he said.

“They realize they may be looking at a shutdown of two months, three months, maybe longer,” Sherrington explained. “And with rent due and their ability to make money curtailed or completely shut off, they cant do it, it’s not possible.”

Business owners are keenly aware that nothing is immune to going through ups and downs.

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Slow weeks, months, seasons or even years are common in any entrepreneur’s career. Government mandated shutdowns however, aren’t something many ever anticipate experiencing.

Now that non-essential services have been forced to close for the foreseeable future, some business owners’ incomes have been halted while their expenses continue.

“We’re hearing the same stuff from our landlords, which is pay your rent,” he explained.

“I understand where they’re coming from,” Sherrington added. “I think they’re in the same boat I’m in.”

360 Fit has been in HRM for just shy of a decade, opening in November of 2010.​

In that time its reach has grown, landing in Dartmouth, Halifax and East Hants.

Sherrington said of his three locations, only one landlord has reassured him not to worry about the upcoming rent typically due on the first of the month, now one week away, while the other two expect to be paid.

“We’ve talked about already the fact that you can’t evict somebody from their apartment or their house that they’re renting because of this and the landlords have accepted that,” he said.

“This has to happen on the commercial side too.”

Sherrington says he’s spoken with other business owners who’ve heard a similar solution proposed by their landlords — taking out a loan.

While that might help alleviate the stress of having bills to pay in the immediate future, he doesn’t see it being a viable option, mainly due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation here and around the globe.

“In two or three months of no income or way less income than we would normally have… we’re getting into a situation where you have this enormous loan that’s outstanding,” he explained. “When you reopen, you’re hamstrung and you’ll see enormous numbers of businesses close if that’s the case.

“It has to start from the top, if it doesn’t start from the top it doesn’t work.”

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