To discover that lockdown has produced some inspirational ‘outside the box’ thinking
Tadas Jarasius specialises in offering medium-term accommodation – an average stay of 2-3 weeks – in prized Camden locations for various corporate, heathcare and events visitors. He’s a relocation agent rather than a landlord, which left him in a difficult situation over lockdown, but one from which he has emerged stronger.
How has COVID affected your business?
“I manage properties on behalf of landlords, so I immediately got in touch with them all to see if I could negotiate rent reductions. Some were fine about this, and some were not. Despite my properties suddenly being totally empty, I had a few landlords say the risk must be 100% mine – so I had to improvise.
I went knocking on the doors on all the construction companies around Camden, because they worked on throughout the lockdown. I managed to secure quite a few contracts for my flats in King’s Cross, at a very reduced rate. At least that covered some costs, as the utility companies would simply cut us off if we didn’t pay each month. Because my properties are not hotels, they don’t have business rates, therefore we didn’t qualify for any grants either. My revenue was 50% down, but at least I could pay the bills.”
What’s your current offering?
“I’m seeing more and more companies coming back, but it’s still going to take a long time. Conferences aren’t going to happen for a while due to distancing, and tourism is also still completely down. I’m still busy approaching all the companies I can, meeting them, trying to persuade them, and just keeping going.”
What have been your greatest concerns?
“If I hadn’t been able to secure some of the building contractors, I would basically have had to back the properties, and there was a risk that I may have to shut the business too. I haven’t got enough properties under my belt yet, so it would be hard to carry on after that. As you can imagine, sometimes when I take a new place on it’s really rundown, so I always do a full refurbishment. In some cases that means putting £20k-£30k into someone else’s property. I took on two new ones late last year, and spent a lot of money getting those ready, which meant Covid hitting in early 2020 was really tough.”
What’s made you feel optimistic?
“The first thing was that I was forced to think outside on the box. I had to knock on those doors, send many emails, make many calls and just make new contacts. That’s how I found contractors coming in from places like Newcastle and Edinburgh that I had no idea about before. When I spoke to the big construction firm s they said they didn’t need me, but I said ‘ok, but who is working for you?’ That’s how I made the contact. It was a huge learning curve, but I think I’ve gained great experience in that way.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
“I’m always happy to work with local businesses, even more so now. I had a good arrangement with the venue KOKO before they closed for refurbishment and had musicians, tour managers, DJs and others staying in our place in Mornington Crescent (pictured above), that’s five mins walk away from the club. We have places from Warrant Street up to Chalk Farm, so if anyone is looking for this kind of accommodation for staff or guests, mention Camdenist and I’m happy to give a discount, so we can build a relationship.”
The COVID-19 health crisis has burned our economic and cultural landscape much like a forest fire. But across a charred, razed environment, strong green shoots inevitably emerge.
CAMDENIST is a new collaborative local media platform, currently in beta mode and launching soon. Born from the smoldering ashes of this unprecedented era, it will provide fertile support for the regeneration of our communities, businesses and cultural spaces in the times ahead.
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