Thursday, June 20, 2013


Even if restaurants do provide many more jobs than a 7-Eleven, are restaurants as sustainable as 7-Elevens? That's exactly the question that leads right to the heart, goal and purpose of NO711.

Because they can get higher rents from chain stores, banks and bars, landlords raise their commercial rents on small businesses as soon as their leases come due and drive out those small local-serving businesses in order to open up space for higher-renting bars, banks and chains.

As the highest rent-payer, chains take the highest-density foot traffic locations, clustering to increase that foot traffic. Increasingly, chains are invading less dense neighborhoods. As long as there's no regulatory restriction on chain stores, there's no reason to believe this trend will not continue. Landords in less dense neighborhoods speculate on that trend by raising rents even leaving stores vacant until a chain takes it, as the Pratt Center has observed.

Small storefronts increased rents by as much as 600% in 2006 to make way for bars and chain stores in the EV. Commercial rent increases and upscaling are not static levels. They respond to speculations on itself -- a recursive function that spirals upwards to the highest bidder creating a context in which only the highest bidder can survive. CBGB's was lost to Varvatos, a chain store. Veselka, an independent restaurant, opened on the Bowery after Varvatos opened and has already failed. This is no coincidence.

(As it happens, the restaurant I mentioned a couple of posts back has been around for decades. It has a full liquor license as most successful restaurants have. It is also nowhere near any chain stores.)

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