1 July 2012
From Commercial Property Blog
One of the few rock’n’roll heritage sites not ripped from the cultural spleen of the West End by the rupturing menace of Crossrail, the nuisance of relentless rickshaws or Westminster Council’s brutal licensing regime is the 100 Club. Nestled beneath an unsuspecting 1960s office block and wedged between two anonymous shops (ones with constant 70% discounts), it witnessed an unlikely gathering of some of the City’s most senior lawyers a couple of weeks ago.
Luckily, they weren’t there to take occupancy, but were committing another crime: murder. Of the musical kind: many great songs died that night as part of the Law Rocks charity event. Like Party Near the Park without the drag.
Property folk will be pleased to learn that Hogan Lovells were one of the better acts there. Fronted by the Fender-baiting frontman, Matthew Ditchburn, who’s slightly reminiscent of Tim Wheeler (from Irish band Ash, rather than the now-defunct Brixton group), who led them through a set of nineties/noughties hits.
Needless to say, the world of Green Day is a universe away from Quarter Day and Ditchburn’s normal role helping the major Reits and pension funds patch up their retail portfolios with CVAs and pre-packs. And while the insolvency and restructuing partner no doubt secretly possesses a carefully curtained hope of being the opening act when they eventually re-commission Top of the Pops, he’s become one of the leading spokesmen in the industry’s fight with failing retailers.
Which takes us nicely to the front page of the current issue of Property Week, reporting that the major landlords have finally agreed a much-talked up standardised lease. Coming three years after Land Securities launched its own Clearlet, it has always made sense to simplify the process. And while many still see the property industry as exceling in being stuffy, conservative and unwilling to shift, I’ve been privileged to see first hand how firms have evolved through innovation at the top.
The Reits and pension funds will of course fear more than a few extra hours of legal fees will be the recurring threat of an upward-only rent review ban. Mary Portas, following her “review” for the government (which seems to have doubled up a rather lucrative commercial deal for TV shows and publicity), seems to be blundering towards the very point if reports are to be believed.
Clearly, no amount of deckchair shuffling with shorter leases is going to stop deserting the likes of Clintons, Game or Peacocks. And with the continuing dominance of Land Securities, Westfield and British Land in prime retail, the divide between primary and everything else will only widen over the coming months, becoming a self-perpetuating spiral for unloved retail space.
The threat of a ban on upward-only rents would exacerbate the situation, meaning more landlords across the industry need to pull their socks up and try and future proof their tenants, and themselves. Whether that’s through clearer leases, monthly rents or donuts on a Friday morning remains to be seen.
Maybe what we need is a 100 Club on every British high street?