As one of Knysna’s top leisure destinations, the Waterfront has been hit hard by the COVID-19 related drop in international tourism and the subsequent Government lockdown.
Centre Manager Sheldon Meese said supporting local has never been more important. “Most of our tenants and their employees are Knysna residents and we urge the public to support them. Shops open at the moment include Health Bells, Out of the Blue, Sublime, Famous Brands, Providence and True Blue amongst others. Health Bells, Sublime and Out of the Blue also sells face masks. 34South is open with the following sections: bakery, fish, groceries, frozen food and sushi and offers a delivery service which include items from a specially prepared menu. They also run daily specials on a variety of items. Other tenants including restaurants have assured us that they will open as soon as they are allowed to. ”
He said that as a leisure destination the shops rely to a great extent on tourists for their daily business. “Bearing this in mind we dramatically reduced rentals by 80% in April, even before the lockdown period was announced. The reduced rental of 20% serves as a contribution towards the centre’s operational costs, including rates & utilities.”
“The Waterfront has hardly any essential sector shops and most will only be able to open once Level 2 and 1 are introduced. The 80% reduction in rental will stay in place until they can reopen and we will reassess turnovers after a specified trading period and may introduce a turnover rental, rather than a fixed amount to work with them to counteract the COVID19 impact.”
Meese said that the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) suggested a Tenant Assistance Relief package with some rental relief in April and May, but that rates and utility costs must be paid in full. “Due to the lockdown period we’ve missed out on the Easter holidays, usually a very busy period in Knysna. On top of that events like the Knysna Speed Festival, the Pink Loerie Festival and Knysna Oyster Festival were cancelled this year. These factors will have an effect on turnovers before the traditionally quiet winter period which influenced our decision to reduce rentals to a flat 20%, all-inclusive rate.”
“It is essential to find a mutually beneficial solution not only for shops to remain open, but also to enable owners to pay their employees until tourism picks up again. Some of our tenants could not see a way forward, and for those that opted to close their businesses permanently, we have waived existing lease agreements and penalties. It is disheartening to experience a tenant vacating a shop or restaurant they may have built up over 10 to 20 years and once again reiterates the catastrophic effect that the COVID-19 virus is having on people and the economy.”
“We understand that tourism will take time to recover. This is why we are working on reducing the Centre’s operational costs without impacting on standards in terms of cleaning, security, etc. This will enable us to accommodate our tenants going forward by keeping rentals achievable until turnovers have recovered to pre-COVID19 levels. The Waterfront is a microcosm of the Knysna tourism industry and we will do our utmost to preserve it and to help the tenants to survive and hopefully prosper in future. For the sake of Knysna, we hope other Landlords follow suit.”
FOR REGULAR UPDATES ON SPECIALS AND OTHER NEWS LIKE AND FOLLOW THE WATERFRONT’S FACEBOOK PAGE @KnysnaWaterfront