Companies of all sizes struggling to pay rent

SEATTLE -- Companies of all sizes are struggling to pay rent amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For one local business, it all started at Pike Place Market.

“I’ve been in business for 44 years,” Bonnie Harris said.

Harris and her husband opened Scotty’s Juice Tree all those years ago. Now she is squeezing out fresh juices from a warehouse in SoDo.

“I’m a wholesaler juice company and I sell to 250 restaurants in Seattle,” Harris said.

But lately, there is not much selling going on.

“Lost about 95% of my business on March 16,” Harris said.

That’s when restaurants and other businesses started shutting down, ordered by the state in hopes of fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Harris says she’s using federal aid money to pay rent for her retail space but making it every month moving forward is a concern.

“I think everyone deserves a break right now, large companies, small companies we are all struggling,” Harris said.

From small businesses like Harris's to corporations as large as Starbucks, companies are pleading for breaks on rent shaking the commercial property industry.

“We are having ongoing conversations with our landlords in various markets regarding what may be commercially reasonable lease concessions in the current environment. So we've not yet confirmed those arrangements and it's really premature to indicate what that relief may look like,” Starbucks CFO Pat Grismer said in a late April earnings call.

With all the uncertainty, rent for retail space in downtown Seattle is projected to fall 7.7% year over year, according to CoStar and Oxford Economics.

CoStar’s data also indicates that nationally more than 17% of commercial property sales scheduled to close in April fell through.

These are numbers the Downtown Seattle Association is closely watching.

Despite all the discouraging news around her, Harris says she will do everything she can to hold on to her SoDo space. Her husband passed away last year and she is working harder than ever to keep it afloat.

“I am my own driver right now. I had 4 drivers I had to let go. I am doing my own deliveries and my own bookkeeping,” Harris said.

She’s determined to add another decade to her 44 years in business.

“I don’t anticipate going anywhere soon,” Harris said.