Vooruit is taking advantage of the forced closure of Café Monk, one of the most famous cafés in Brussels’ Sint-Katelijnewijk, to put an end to the so-called ‘strangling contracts’. To this end, the political party will submit a proposal to the Flemish and Brussels parliaments to amend the commercial lease legislation.
Owner and beverage trader Horeca Logistics Services (HLS) did not extend the lease because it wants to have renovations carried out. They would be necessary to “ensure the further operation in the historic building.” According to the law, a renewal of the commercial lease can be refused if the owner wants to carry out structural works of demolition and reconstruction that cost more than three years’ rent. Normally, the tenant is also entitled to compensation equivalent to three years’ rent, if evicted by the owner, but because the costs of the renovation would exceed three years’ rent, this compensation is no longer applicable by law . This leaves operator Filip Jans on the street empty-handed.
There is more going on in the story. As with many other cafes and other catering establishments, there may be ‘strangling contracts’. These are agreements that determine how much drink the operator of a catering business must purchase from the brewery or drinks trader, if the latter own the premises. If too little is purchased, the breweries and beverage merchants can terminate the contract. With or without solid reasons. “Many catering operators are bound by the commercial lease to contractual obligations for the purchase of drinks, often also with an exclusivity clause. The café owner has very little margin for negotiation,” says Hannelore Goeman, Vooruit party leader in the Flemish Parliament. “We want to get rid of the ‘linkage’ with which such obligations can lead directly to the end of the lease. It is not logical for an operator to lose his location while complying with the rental conditions. It is essential for the livelihood and job security of the staff.”
Vooruit also wants to review the acquisition price under which the threshold money falls. In a spurt of logical thinking, Vooruit argues that the value of the business, such as the clientele and brand awareness, are mainly due to the previous operators, and not to the brewers or liquor dealers. Illogical thinking, and certainly uneconomical, is the proposal to transfer half of the threshold money to the previous operator in specific cases. In this way, the operators would reap the fruits of their work. Please remind the people who propose this that we are 2023?