Another one bites the dust. Despite being Rookery’s best-performing outlet, the casual western dining restaurant will be shuttering its Capital Tower branch when its three-year lease ends next month in June. Former DJ Daniel Ong, who runs the brand’s three outlets with two partners, says the decision wasn’t a sudden one. When the dine-in ban on eateries was announced early April along with the Circuit Breaker measures, they knew they would have to close it, says the newly-wedded entrepreneur.

“Our original plan was to continue with Capital Tower ’cos we put in so much money into its infrastructure. The kitchen cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct, we also pumped in a lot of money into the renovation,” Daniel tells 8days.sg over the phone. “But now, even though it’s our best-performing outlet, we cannot run it anymore. We’re just lucky we’re hitting the end of our three-year lease [come June].” According to Daniel, monthly rental at each of his CBD outlets is around $25,000. He declined to reveal the exact figure of the biz losses incurred so far after the emergence of COVID-19, but shares that it’s somewhere around a "couple hundred thousand [dollars], inclusive of capital expenditure losses when we close [the Capital Tower outlet]."

The fate of Rookery’s China Square and Hong Leong Building outlets, which leases expire in 2021, will depend on whether they can “get a new rental scheme in place”. “We need to talk to the landlords to come up with an amicable solution. We can either work on a GTO (Gross Turnover Rent) basis where [rental is based on a percentage of gross revenue], or it can be reduced in however our capacity is reduced. For example, if dine-in capacity is 30 per cent, then we pay 30 per cent rent,” explains Daniel. The 44-year-old reckons that even after the dine-in ban is lifted, restaurants will have to run at a 50 per cent capacity thanks to safe-distancing measures. “So if landlords are going to charge normal rental rates, then we are 100 per cent dead.”

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