Businesses in Mongar struggle to pay rent

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Six days into the new month, businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are feeling the heat in Mongar town.

Those running hotels, restaurants and other small business on rent are now becoming desperate as some landlords have not waived rents or businesses are not earning enough to even make the reduced rent.

Except for grocers, all forms of businesses are not doing well with the town not seeing many people. As of yesterday, around five house owners in Mongar town and one in Kilikhar town have slashed rents to their tenants. Two building owners reduced the rent by Nu 5,000 for the affected tenants, a building owner gave 20 percent, another 23 percent and one gave 50 percent discount for three months. A building owner in Kilikhar waived off 50 percent for all the tenants.

“The business is totally down and I am tensed. I couldn’t afford to pay the house rent for last month,” the proprietor of Shalom Hotel, Shyam Kumar said. For March, Shyam Kumar paid only Nu 70,000 of the Nu 120,000 a month rent, one of the highest in Mongar. He runs an eight-room hotel.

Yesterday, after negotiating, the building owner slashed the rent by 40 percent, but he could not agree. Shyam Kumar had been running the hotel for 10 months. “Before the pandemic, there was no problem and I used to pay the rent on time. I can’t afford to pay even 50 percent, because there is no return,” he said. Shyam estimates a daily business worth Nu 20,000 to pay rent and his four employees. “I earn around Nu 3,000 a day including from a few walk-in customers who stay for a night or two.”

Kinzang Wangmo who runs a restaurant near Mongar high school said she depended on students. “With schools closed, there is hardly any business,” she said. Kinzang is surviving on supplying homemade cookies to the groceries. Although her house owner slashed the rent by 23 percent, Kinzang was only able to pay after she received the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu of Nu 8,000. Her house rent is Nu 10,000 a month.

“I am thankful to the house owner, but more grateful to His Majesty The King for the kidu” she said.

A restaurant owner, who didn’t want to be named, said his house owner had asked him to leave after he asked for a discount on the rent.

Pema, who is running a garment shop, said while the Nu 5,000 deduction she got on her Nu 25,000 rent helped her, she said there is no sale. “New summer stocks are stranded because of the lockdown in India and there is no one to buy the old ones,” she said.

House rent for business spaces ranges from Nu 8,000 to 15,000 for a single room and up to Nu 50,000 bigger flats in Mongar town. Druk Zhongar, Drukzom, Hotel Shalom and Hotel Norphel pay rent between Nu 112,000 and 200,000 per month.

“My gross income for April was only 30,000 from catering and a few more thousands from rare occupancy. We are yet to discuss the rent deduction,” the manager of Hotel Druk Zhongar, Mandarawa said.

Meanwhile, employees of entertainment centers and hotels who were directly affected were happy as some of them received kidu and some without personal bank account were indicated.

“I was worried about how I would pay the rent for April as I became jobless since the closure of the Drayang,” said a former employee of T Dolma Drayang. “The Nu 12,000 kidu I received recently helped me immensely,” Ngawang Lhamo, said.

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