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Grand Central Restaurants and Stores Refuse to Pay Rent Amid COVID-19 Shutdown

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A group of 20 tenants has sent a letter to Grand Central landlord the MTA telling the agency it can’t pay April rent

The main grand central terminal with a golden vaulted ceiling with green paint. Some people are seen walking inside the terminal.
A group of 20 Grand Central Terminal tenants say they can’t pay the rent in April

A couple of weeks ago, a group of tenants at Grand Central Terminal — including food vendors — complained that their landlord, the MTA, had sent them a reminder to pay April rent despite businesses struggling due to the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown. Now, some 20-odd tenants at the station have gone on strike and are refusing to pay rent, the New York Post reports.

The vendors sent an email to the agency saying they won’t be able to pay rent for the month of April, which was due two days ago. The MTA is sympathetic but says the federal government needs to step in.

“We understand the tremendous challenges facing these businesses during this public health crisis, and urge the federal government to swiftly provide relief and assistance,” Abbey Collins, a spokesperson for the agency tells Eater in a statement.

It’s not yet clear how many of the 20 businesses that are refusing to pay rent are food vendors, but among the businesses that have raised concerns are Li-Lac Chocolates, cocktail bar the Campbell, and Lady Gaga’s dad’s food court operation Art Bird and Whiskey Bar. The terminal has dozens of food vendors, including Magnolia Bakery and Shake Shack.

The rent strike has the backing of some legislators, including State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the area the station is located in. “I’m hopeful that the MTA will be fair to these struggling small businesses and set a standard for the private sector,” he tells the Post.

Restaurants and bars — both big and small — all over the city have been pleading with their landlords for rent forgiveness or deferment in light of the colossal losses businesses have faced due to the current restrictions on public life. While tenants won’t be evicted for not paying rent due to an existing state moratorium, they may be faced with paying months of rent at once when the moratorium lifts. A group of state legislators are looking to pass a bill that will cancel rent and mortgage payments for 90 days.