Richard Corrigan has threatened to stand outside landlords' offices "with a placard and a loudhailer" if it means the industry avoids "Armageddon" over rents.
The chef-restaurateur, who operates Bentley's, Corrigan's and Daffodil Mulligan, all in London, said that the intransigence of some landlords risked the future of restaurants, which will be unable to meet existing agreements due to the restrictions imposed by social distancing.
"People are talking about a nine-month moratorium," Corrigan said. "We need 18 months, minimum. In the short term we don't have a business.
"Nobody is queuing up to take our sites. The equity companies have run away, and the groups will be so in the shit they won't want to expand. The fact of the matter is that we are the only people there. We're not saying we won't pay; we're saying we can't. So the game has changed. They need to knock 65% off rents for anyone to consider reopening."
Corrigan added that he had been supported at Corrigan's by Grosvenor House general manager Stuart Bowery and that Daffodil Mulligan landlord Derwent Estates "understands what the high street is going through". He added that Bentley's landlord Crown Estates might take a while to recognise "the real severity of where we all are".
He called on other operators to make a stand against landlords who are currently unwilling to recognise that restaurants will effectively be running at a third of the capacity on which their rent had been based.
Corrigan said: "I don't want to be standing outside Crown Estates with a placard and a loudhailer, but I'm willing to do it. If every restaurateur thinks the same, we won't have the same issues going forward.
He added: "I've worked hard all my life to get where I am and never expected anything from anyone on the way through. I've worked my way out of every recession, carried the burden of debt, paid off my debt. But we are now facing Armageddon. This is where we all need to come together and go forward together."
Landlords should appreciate the variety that independent operators bring to an estate, Corrigan said, and come to the table for the good of all parties.
"The Crown Estate has been brilliant and done a great job, but it will take a while for landlords in large estates to understand the real severity of where we all are," he said.
"That the little independents who form the backbone and attractive eccentricity of their estates, which makes people want to visit, are fighting for existence. They can't all be full of coffee shops, brands and chains. Surely they want us to be here in two years' time.
"I'd suggest to those landlords who want to behave like mobsters that there's no money in the kitty. Let's find solutions. We don't want the abiding memory to be the intransigence of the landlords."
For the full interview with Richard Corrigan see next week's issue of The Caterer. Become a digital and print subscriber.
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