The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation waived April’s rent for some tenants of the Merchants Square Association.
Ralph Youngs, president of the Merchants Square Association and owner of a Baskin-Robbins franchise, said the foundation’s new president, Cliff Fleet, gave them the news recently.
“Rent is completely forgiven, which is extraordinary, which is really nice of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,” he said. “We are so grateful to work with a partner like the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation that wants to see us succeed.”
Besides rent, the waived fees include communal area maintenance fees such as real estate taxes and building maintenance and advertising fees, Youngs added.
He said a majority of the businesses in the association are family-owned and after Gov. Ralph Northam’s order of limiting restaurants to 10 patrons, nearly all the restaurants in Merchants square had to close.
However, not all of the businesses are members of the Merchants Square Association, said Jeff Duncan, vice president of real estate for Colonial Williamsburg.
Duncan said businesses who will receive the waiver are those who are impacted by a loss of customers and visitation. This means shopping locations and restaurants but also includes tenants such as the Kimball Theatre, which can no longer host large ticketed events.
What the waiver doesn’t include tenants in Merchants Square that are renting office space or residential locations because they fall under a different category of tenants that have not been impacted by the loss of customers.
He added that it was important to the foundation to do what it could to help its tenants.
“Merchants Square is a critical part of Colonial Williamsburg,” Duncan said. “Colonial Williamsburg has built, owned and leased space in Merchant’s Square since the 1930s and it’s an ingrained part of the downtown experience.”
Many of the businesses have been around for decades and support local families, he said.
“This couldn’t have come at a more opportune time,” Youngs said. “I want to stress again how thankful we are. It’s so nice that Colonial Williamsburg told us that we are an integral part of Colonial Williamsburg…and they did this so these businesses would stay in business.”
Duncan said the foundation will be in discussions in the future about rent for May, depending on how long the pandemic lasts.
He also commended the Williamsburg City Council’s decision to change the due date for food and beverage and transient lodging tax payments to May 1.
“We were very happy to see the City Council stepped up and took these business’ [concerns] to heart,” Duncan said.
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