Detroit billionaire and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s real estate firm, downtown Detroit’s biggest landlord, announced Monday that it will waive all rent, building expenses and parking fees during the months of April and May, and in some instances June, for its restaurant and retail tenants that are small businesses.
The gesture by Gilbert’s Bedrock is meant to help those businesses weather the coronavirus crisis and meet payroll.
“It is going to take the entire community to mitigate the effects of this pandemic on the region, and we are happy to do our part to help our portfolio’s most vulnerable businesses weather the storm,” Bedrock CEO Matt Cullen said.
Restaurants and retailers with under $100 million in annual sales can qualify for two months of free rent and expenses. Smaller businesses with $80,000 or less in monthly sales can qualify for the full three months of free rent.
Restaurants and non-grocery retailers across the state have been struggling since the COVID-19 crisis arrived in Michigan this month, and especially since a March 16 executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that closed all bars, theaters, gyms and casinos and limits restaurants to carry out-only service.
On Saturday, Whitmer extended the temporary closure through April 13 and added barber shops, hair and nail salons and other personal service shops to the list.
Cullen told the USA TODAY Network’s Detroit Free Press that Bedrock’s assistance program will amount to millions of dollars in foregone revenue and rent payments. But the businesses are facing hard economic times and could use the help.
Bedrock has led the revival of downtown Detroit by renovating many empty or underutilized buildings and then recruiting tenants to fill them.
“We worked really hard as a community to build up this retail ecosystem and we want to nurture that,” Cullen said.
So far, no Bedrock tenant has had to permanently shut their doors due to the pandemic and the loss of customer traffic, he said. Bedrock says its real estate portfolio includes 125 retailers and restaurants and 210 office tenants.
Other small business help
There is a new state program to help small businesses during the pandemic. The Michigan Small Business Relief Program offers grants of up to $10,000 to businesses experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, as well as low-interest loans of $50,000 to $200,000 with flexible repayment terms.
The TechTown business accelerator also is offering $5,000 emergency assistance grants to qualified Detroit businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
Separately, the Quicken Loans Community Fund and Gilbert Family Foundation are donating a combined $1.2 million to help with the general impact of coronavirus in Detroit.
Follow Detroit Free Press reporter JC Reindl on Twitter @jcreindl.