Landlords explore rights as Europe prepares to ease lockdown

Landlords across Europe are preparing for the relaunch of shops, manufacturing and building sites in May as governments lay out plans to recharge their economies.

Italy is gearing up to end Europe's longest lockdown on 4 May, when citizens will be allowed to resume sporting activities beyond the confines of their neighbourhoods and visit relatives.

Wholesale stores will reopen, with restaurants allowed to offer takeaway in addition to the delivery services some have been supplying. Factories, building sites and some select workplaces will also restart.

Most other retail activities in Italy, including fashion and beauty, will relaunch from 18 May, with bars, restaurants and hairdressers having to wait until 1 June to welcome customers. Mask-use becomes obligatory in confined spaces, including public transport.

Easing restrictions
In Germany, where lockdown restrictions began to ease in mid-April, barbers and hairdressers said they were expecting 'overwhelming' demand for their services when they reopen on 4 May. Some salons reported already being booked up for most of the coming month after being closed since 23 March.

Both hairdressers and clients will be required to wear facemasks, although they will not be obliged to keep a minimum distance from one another.

Germany has already experimented with reopening smaller retail spaces, although its federal structure means that regulations differ state by state. However, not all retailers are taking advantage of the latest rulings, according to Johnnie Wilkinson, CEO of Greenman, the Dublin-based investor in German food-anchored retail parks and retail warehouses.

'It’s too early to say if retailers will make use of these rights. One can see a situation where continued low frequency of footfall might deter tenants from opening some or all of their stores,' Wilkinson told PropertyEU.

In Spain, where manufacturing and construction businesses have already reopened, a further relaxation of restrictions will begin on 11 May. France has also signalled that most shops will reopen on the same date, although restaurants and bars will have to wait a little longer.

UK outlook
Quarantine is set to continue until 5 May in Ireland, and 7 May in the UK, with further announcements expected in both countries regarding subsequent reopening plans.

However it seems certain that when shops do reopen in the UK, some key tenants may be missing. With news that a buyer has not been found to purchase fashion labels Oasis and Warehouse out of administration, some 92 standalone stores and more than 400 concessions across department stores and supermarkets will go dark. 

The Telegraph has reported on a winding up order submitted by a landlord of restaurant chain Pizza Express in order to recover unpaid rent, but proceedings are likely to be hindered by recent UK goverment moves to temporararily ban such orders at least until 30 June.

John Lewis is understood to be considering not reopening some of its less profitable stores, and potentially giving back space to landlords where it feels there is a surplus.  

School openings
Only a few countries have pledged to open or reopen schools. The Netherlands will relaunch primary schools on 11 May; many retail activities are also open, although restaurants remain shuttered, at least until 19 May.

The Guardian reported that McDonalds has been assessing how to reopen its Dutch outlets, looking into table service, external handwashing stations, and restaurant 'hosts' enforcing social distancing.

Denmark has allowed its youngest students to resume school, and already greenlit hairdressers and dental practices. Germany also plans to reopen some schools from 4 May.

In Sweden, restaurants and schools have remained open, although there is a ban on gatherings that exceed 50 people.

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