EAST LANSING, Mich. — The East Lansing Building Authority reduced the rent it was charging Georgio’s Pizza in order to prevent the 26-year-old business from closing.
Georgio’s owner Taso Alimonos said business was good being near Michigan State's Campus, but, since the pandemic hit, they’ve been struggling to pay rent.
“With 50,000 students in town, of course, it was a lot different than it is now,” Alimonos said. “It’s been at least 50 percent less business from before.”
Last summer, the Building Authority approved a rent forbearance that ran from July through December, reduced the restaurant's monthly rent from around $2,200 to $1,640. The forbearance also created a payment plan for Alimonos to pay back the rent he was late on.
In December, Alimonos said he could not sign the lease to renew renting the space because the rent was too high. The Building Authority adjusted the lease again.
“We’re trying our best within our capacity to work with businesses we’re able to," said Community and Economic Developer Adam Cummins. "Especially us being the landlord, the Building Authority being the landlord to that property”
The new amendment reduced the payments to $1,500 a month and allows the business to operate on a month by month lease.
Cummins said businesses are facing a difficult situation that they didn't create.
“A lot of these revenue losses are outside of their control," he said. "Indoor dining has been closed, then opened, then closed, capacity limitations, MSU canceling a lot of their in-person classes in the fall. All of these decisions have significant impacts on revenue.”
Because the city owns the building where Georgio’s rents space, he said, they could help keep them in business.
“The reasons for these decisions and these amendments is to work with them, but to balance the cost of reducing the rent versus having no income at all and try replacing that local business,” he said.
Although Cummins is happy they can help Georgio's out, he said not all landlords are capable of doing what the city can.
“All these landlords in the nation are in the same position to balance those costs," he said. "The few I’ve spoken to are really doing everything they can to work with tenants during this time.”
Like most businesses in East Lansing, Alimonos says he’s hoping more students will be able to return to campus in the fall and that he’s trying to hold out until then.
“With some government help we’ve gotten like the PPP, we’ll get through this,” Alimons said.