Some of Bahrain’s oldest expat clubs and associations have issued a fresh plea calling for a temporary waiver of rents on their properties.
They claim the financial impact of Covid-19 has hit them so hard they are struggling to stay afloat.
Indian Club Bahrain and Pakistan Club officials are requesting authorities to allow them to stage fundraising events provided health and safety protocols are adhered to … and to waive or reduce monthly rents.
Property management company, EPMC, a subsidiary of Edamah, the government’s real estate arm, has urged the clubs’ executive committees to discuss their concerns rather than refuse to pay what they owe.
“There is no revenue generation for most of the expat clubs and associations, and we are using our savings to pay operational costs that will eventually dry up if no relief is provided,” said Indian Club Bahrain president Stalin Joseph.
The Indian Club set up in 1915 is facing dire straits to pay its monthly rent and officials have requested a waiver.
The club was established in 1915 as the Bahrain Sports Club. In recent years it boasted 900 members but in recent months that number has plummeted to around 400, and most of them cannot afford their membership fees because of the economic crisis, said Mr Joseph.
He explained no events or activities had taken place since last year and it was difficult to organise fundraising events. He said the club was looking to find new ways to generate income such as hosting an ATM on the premises to attract a monthly income, and a screen to be used for advertising.
Mr Joseph said the club had received an invoice for rent covering January to July it had not paid as it was hoping to negotiate.
“Our annual rent that we pay to Edamah is more than BD18,000 and we have requested them to give us a waiver in these difficult times or even adjust the payments,” he added.
Similar views were echoed by the Pakistan Club that was set up in 1948. Club chairman Rehan Ahmed said it owed rent for the same 2021 period.
The different items that are being given as Iftar food parcels during Ramadan by the Pakistan Club, which is also struggling to pay its rent.
“We are in no condition to pay the rent and have requested it waive the cost but we still await a response,” said Mr Ahmed.
“Our patrons cannot sponsor us during these difficult times because there are no activities, no membership fees or utilisation of the club facilities.
“There is no income being generated but we continue to pay salaries of our staff and utility bills.”
Mr Ahmed added in 2019 the club had around 300 members but lately no one had renewed their membership, making it ‘extremely difficult’ to pay an approximate BD1,000 per month rent.
“Despite all these difficulties, the club managed to provide Iftar food parcels to the needy, support those who had lost their jobs during the pandemic, and even helped Pakistanis go back to their loved ones,” he added.
The British Club, founded in 1935, as reported in the GDN, faced a similar crisis last year and stopped paying all staff, including managers, to survive. However, it continues to meet its rental obligations to EPMC.
“We have cleared 70 per cent of our debt and pay our bills on time to stay afloat,” said club manager Daniel McRae.
The club, which had more than 2,000 members in its heyday, was temporarily closed last year for normal business as part of the kingdom’s strategy to tackle the spread of Covid-19 and was unable to generate any income for nearly four months.
EPMC’s general manager Waleed Adel Ali responded to the issues raised but out of professional courtesy, declined to individually name those refusing to pay their rent.
“In the interests of confidentiality and discretion we will respect the anonymity of partners and not disclose tenants’ names,” said Mr Ali.
“However, it should be noted for the record that EPMC pre-emptively waived rents for the year 2020, in some cases up to 90 days.
“We agreed to requests from partners and clients for deferments, and we accepted bespoke payment plans, as suggested by clients, if that suited them best.”
Mr Ali added that EPMC had offered further assistance taking into account the Covid-19 crisis.
“We put a freeze on rent reviews and increases, despite some properties being rented at rates significantly below market price because of location or plot size,” he added.
“We undertake to do this, because we understand what folks have been going through. We value our relationships with clients; in some cases going back decades. We’re aligned with the benevolence shown by this government over the entire Covid-19 period.
“It’s also worth mentioning that, so far this year we have not received any rent at all, from some popular venues and social spots who have been in part or fully operational for at least two months, so they’re clearly experiencing some complications.”
Mr Ali added that EPMC wanted the tenants concerned to make contact as it was more than ready and willing to discuss their issues.
“We don’t want to add to their burden and so we urge those experiencing protracted difficulties to reach out to us, as they have done since last year, and we are certain an accommodation can be reached that meets the needs of all concerned,” he added.
The BKS, established in 1947, is using up its savings to pay rent and stay afloat
Meanwhile, another expat social-cultural association, the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam (BKS), said it was desperately meeting donors every month to fund its rental obligations to another company.
The BKS was established in 1947 and attracts a large footfall to the club premises in Segaiya but it too was finding it difficult to get members to pay their dues.
“We have about 1,800 members and a big chunk of them have not paid their membership fees,” said BKS president P V Radhakrishna Pillai.
“Our monthly rent is about BD1,400 that we pay to Ghurnata Real Estate that we are struggling to pay and knock on every possible door to help clear it.”
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