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The Coffee Cup and Villa Bianca in peril: Hampstead restauranteur ‘scared for future’ of historic restaurants amid lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:30 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:56 22 June 2020

Rinaldo Mollura - longstanding Hampstead restaurateur - outside of Villa Bianca. Picture: Polly Hancock

Rinaldo Mollura - longstanding Hampstead restaurateur - outside of Villa Bianca. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

As more businesses reopened this week, a Hampstead restaurateur warned that coronavirus is “killing” the High Street.

VIlla Bianca, Hampstead. Picture: Polly HancockVIlla Bianca, Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Rinaldo Mollura, who runs Villa Bianca in Perrin’s Walk, the Coffee Cup and Fish Cafe in Hampstead High Street and Piccola on Heath Street, said: “This situation now is killing us. And essentially it’s the same for a lot of people.”

He said that with landlords demanding rent, insurance not covering Covid-19, and difficulty getting help from the authorities, he is “scared” for the future. “By March 15 we were having problems, and since then we have done very little business at all,” he said.

The Coffee Cup reopened for takeaway during lockdown, but Rinaldo said takings are nowhere near enough to cover overheads. With social distancing set to limit capacity through 2020, he is unsure when things will improve.

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He owns the freehold to Villa Bianca, but said paying NW3 rents for the other properties could cripple his business. “It is going to destroy our sector, if things don’t change.” Rinaldo, who has not qualified for much government support, is in communication with Camden Council, landlord for Piccola.

The authority has been criticised for not proactively deferring rent for businesses, as some others have. At a scrutiny committee meeting, councillors declined to change the procedure. Officials confirmed deferrals will be discussed when they are approached.

Urging the council to automatically defer rent, Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) said: “Covid-19 presents an unprecedented crisis for businesses, and small businesses in particular. It would cost almost nothing in the long term if it keeps businesses afloat to pay next year.”

London and Regional Properties, which owns the Coffee Cup premises, is in discussion with Rinaldo, but the landlords of Fish Cafe – David Ian de Groot and Miriam Jacquetta Winer – declined to negotiate rent, and has asked for the second quarter’s payment. De Groot Property Management declined to comment, saying it was a legal issue. The government pointed to its “extensive package of support” and said it is working closely with the hospitality sector.

This article was amended on June 22. It originally, incorrectly, stated that De Groot Property Management is the landlord of Fish Cafe.


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