Covid-19: DJ-turned-F&B owner Daniel Ong pleads with landlords to waive 2 to 3 months rental for tenants like him

He revealed he is paying S$25,000 rental for one of his F&B establishments.

Belmont Lay | March 29, 2020, 04:44 AM

Daniel Ong, former Mediacorp DJ-turned-entrepreneur, has taken to social media to lament about the state of his food and beverage businesses and the mounting losses he is suffering as a tenant during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Ong, who is an operator of three restaurants, wrote two Instagram posts on March 28 arguing his position.

What his first post said

In his first post, the 44-year-old wrote about receiving words of encouragement and support after ranting about the business operating issues on Instagram Stories, a temporal medium where posts disappear after 24 hours.

He proceeded to plead with landlords in Singapore to request for them to waive rentals for two to three months, given the current climate where stricter measures have been implemented by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus, effectively keeping people away from socialising outside of their homes.

In his post, Ong even tagged major landlords that operate malls and business properties for lease in Singapore, seeking their cooperation in easing the financial burden of tenants who have witnessed a drastic fall in revenue by 70 to 80 percent.

Ong elaborated why it is time for landlords to step in to help tenants, who are at risk of going bust if current conditions persist:

Having your top line decline by 70-80% only means there’s no way we can sustain this. No matter how deep your pockets.

Over the years, you’ve made hundreds of millions for your organization and shareholders. It’s time to support the very people who fill your malls and properties.

Waive rents for 2-3 months.

Give us a fighting chance.

As at right now, we are not going to make it.

If you do not do anything meaningful, defaults will happen, no one will open anything in this climate, and your properties will remain empty till the end of year or till when a cure is found. It’s a lose lose situation.

By the end of his post to highlight the reciprocal relationship between tenants and landlords, Ong tagged government leaders Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Second post

In his second post that was put up an hour after the first, Ong further revealed the extent of his operating expenses incurred per month and why pivoting to doing other forms of businesses using his current premises is not viable.

He said he had received suggestions on what he could do next, including changing his business model to cater to takeaways.

However, he said that would not do as his overheads are too high and solely doing takeaways produces too small margins.

He wrote that his monthly rental is S$25,000, while paying his staff cost S$40,000.

His Rookery @ China Square establishment caters to officer workers who dine in, but as most of these workers are now working from home, walk-in customers have fallen.

But his main gripe again appears to be directed at landlords.

Ong wrote:

When times are good... we’ve just paid rentals that have doubled or tripled over the years. It’s a give and take relationship. Can you be on the other side for once?

I’m pleading.

He also revealed that tenants defaulting on rental is currently the norm.

Testy relationship between tenants and landlords

The testy relationship between tenants and landlords was recently documented in a news report, as brick-and-mortar businesses in Singapore are taking a massive hit.

For the longest time though, tenants have been arguing that they are the ultimate risk-bearing entities, while landlords are protected as they draw base rentals when times are bad, and get to cream off profits of businesses that do brisk sales during good times.

These terms are embedded in almost all contracts that tenants enter into with major landlords in Singapore.

Tenants have been arguing against the unequal playing field when engaging with landlords in Singapore for many years now as a result.

A plan to formalise a more equal relationship was mooted five years ago but has failed to come to fruition.

Tenants are said to be coming together as a larger bloc this Covid-19 season to get themselves into a better negotiating position when they outlive this bad patch.

Top photos via Daniel Ong Instagram