As a professional newsroom NTI pride ourselves in our objectivity and even-handedness, never allowing a view or opinion get in the way of a story. But if those bullies at Great Portland Estates don't lay off Hotel Chocolat on Regents Street we will send the dogs in.
There is something serene and just 'right' about the world when you walk into Hotel Chocolat and someone glides up to you with a chrome tray and offers you something delicious. A world without the Rabot Estate of cacao growers just wouldn't make sense. Finland we can do without and if it is an ultimate victim of the Coro ... blah, blah, blah, sobeit. But absolutely not the tranquil chocolate spa of loveliness that is the smart-fronted high-end confectionary chain selling praline-stuffed penguins and 'The Chocolate Cabinet', of which you open a drawer and little nipples of chocolate wonderment perkily display themselves in front of you.
The dispute with the nasty landlords of Great Portland is the latest in a series between retail companies and their landlords that has kept us thoroughly entertained over the summer. Hotel Chocolat said that it had lost £149,000 in sales on the Regent Street store, or more than £20,000 a month, despite offering discounts. “It is abundantly clear that we do not meet the ‘able to pay’ criteria for this property,” the company said handing out something indescribably toothsome. The conversation between landlord and tenant can be summarised as follows:
"We want rent during the period of lockdown to be waived." (HC)
"You're having a laugh, aren't you, and take that tray away; what sorcery is this?" (GPE)
"Is there nothing you can do (are you aware that we sell chocolate gin, as well)?"
"How is that even possible? Look, the best we can do is to give you a rent holiday now, but you have to pay more in 2021 to make up for it."
"Can't we discuss this like adults over an orange supermilk hot chocolate?"
Peter Harris, co-founder and chair added this: “You dismissed the efforts of other landlords who have already helped us as being naive and not as sophisticated in their financial analysis as GPE.”
"Oh, come on Mr Peter - I have an estate in Saint Lucia and loads of money - Harris, sure we have worked with smaller independent retailers that had been unable to pay their rent and had provided measures including rental holidays, but we know that Hotel Chocolat can pay and that, in line with Government guidance, it should pay."
"Just because we make 'Biscuits of the Gods - Chocolat Pillows' doesn't mean we are rolling in it, dusted with Ecuadorian 100 per cent chocolate shavings."
... and so it goes on. Should Hotel Chocolat be singled out because they are the latest to seek a better deal and others have gone before them? Actually, don't ask us, we have just discovered their 'Tipsy Truffles Sleekster' and are in no mood to be unbiased.