I’ve asked myself this question more than once over the past month.
It seems as though each time we turn around we’re hit with another threat to Bucketty’s becoming a reality. This isn’t a rant, but for the loyal, handsome and beautiful followers of our journey over the past 3 years (yeah, it’s been 3 years since we started!) I think it’s worth keeping y’all in the loop. Cause when we eventually do pour that first beer, clink our glasses with the hoppy aroma spiking our nose, and the cool bitterness hitting our tongue, it’ll be all the more sweeter.
Let me tell you a story…
Over the past few weeks my beautiful and ever-knowing wife had quietly been nudging me to say “Do you think maybe we should sign the lease and secure the property? It’d be great to slap a “leased by” sticker on the sign. But I knew better… “Nah, we’re good, we’re in a perfect place where we have time to get our DA and wait for the pandemic to settle down. Once it did then we’ll squeeze a better deal” After all, we’d agreed a pre-pandemic deal in a post pandemic world. There was a short term tenant in the building until November, so we had all the time in the world.
And it’s not like anyone is gonna lease a building now with a lease starting in November. No chance.
It sat with me for a few days and figured maybe we should get things moving just to be on the safe side. So I got ready to submit a counter offer asking for a few small concessions, things like new gutters and lower annual increase and we’d sign the lease to start 1st November.
On Monday Morning Lexi was walking past the building and gave me a panic’ed call “Babe, there’s guys in the warehouse ripping up the floors with jackhammers and smashing out the walls. What’s going on?”
A bead sweat formed on my forehead…”I have no idea, I’m on my way!” So I jumped on my bike and headed over.
I was greeted by an Asian dude who was carefully balancing a ciggie between his lips while he smashed apart the tiled floor with a jackhammer. “Ah, hey…. I’m the guy that’s leasing the place when you move out in November, I thought you were only the property for for 5 months? I stuttered.
Internals being gutted.
“No, we taking it for 10 years. It’s better than our other building so we decided to stay.”
Frantic calls to the agent and the lawyer ensued and I soon learned that they hadn’t signed a lease, but they wanted to. We weren’t dead, but we were in trouble. The other company wanted to pay more, didn’t need a lease subject to DA and were a well established tiling company with a number of sites across Sydney. Let’s face it, Bucketty’s Brewery isn’t the greatest tenant covenant in the world and there’s a bit of risk there from the owners perspective. If I owned the building I’d probably just go ahead with the tile bloke.
And the thing is, we can’t just move our DA to another building. If it gets leased out from under us then all the money and the hundreds of hours we’ve put into 26 Orchard Road goes to waste. It’d push us back another 9-12 months and cost another $30k+, (plus therapy to deal with the stress!).
I begged the agent and the owners solicitor to give me an executable copy of the lease and I’ll sign it. I had a bank guarantee made out to the owner sitting on my desk for $69k that’s ready to go, ready from before COVID, “I’m ready, let’s do it!” I said to the agents.
Then days of radio silence… Nobody would return my calls or emails. The writing was on the wall, we were getting screwed… Finally I got an SMS from the agent asking me to come in for a meeting at 9am the next morning, I had to assume it’s because they wanted to let me down easy, maybe salvage the relationship so they could lease us another building and make another leasing fee. Lexi and I didn’t sleep much that night.
I rocked up to the meeting at 8:55am and was told the owner would still lease me the property, but I’d need to match the other party’s offer and pay another $12k per year and settle for 3 instead of 4 months rent free. However he was still willing to go ahead based on nothing more than sticking to his word that he’d give us first right if someone else came along. I asked for an hour to confer with my First Officer Lexi, and after a somber chat we agreed the time and effort to start again wasn’t worth the extra cost, so I called the agent and said “yeah, we’ll do it”.
The net effect is that we’ve agreed to pay $70k more over the course of our 5 year lease than before the pandemic… Jeez! Silver linings though – we’re still going ahead and I reckon we’ll be able to sell an extra $70k worth of beer to make up for it over the next 5 years.
We breathed a sigh of relief and quietly toasted to another crisis averted.
A week later the draft lease arrives along with the solicitors bill. All up it’s $11k (we reluctantly agreed to pay for the landlords legal fees to prepare the lease) instead of the $4k budgeted. $11k!!! I won’t rant on the details of why it’s so high, but as an example – Things like the lawyer being CC’d into an email that required no action, just 2 mins of attention, cost $50. And there were maybe 30-40 emails like this over the course of negotiations.
I pleaded with the owner to be reasonable, and he managed to convince the lawyer to knock $1.5k off the bill… Sheesh. I guess that’s a silver lining? As I write this I’m expecting the final version of the lease for signing at any moment.
Ok… you still with me?
Rewind a couple of weeks and I receive a call from council letting me know that the parking situation was looking positive, however they’d unearthed a DA from 50 years ago that approved a mineral turpentine tank at the property. “Apologies for not alerting you to this sooner, but we can’t approve a food & beverage business unless you have a Stage 1 contamination report”. Right… ok.
A Stage 1 contamination report investigates the previous uses of the property to see if there’s any likely contaminants. If there is, the process proceeds to Stage 2 where they drill and take soil samples. After a couple of quotes it became clear we weren’t going to see any change out of $4,000 for Stage 1. Arg!
Report ordered, now we wait a week to find out the results. Hopefully it’s all good, nobody knows if the turpentine tank was installed, or if it was above/below ground. The entire site is one huge concrete slab, so even if there is contamination down below ground, it (hopefully!) won’t effect us. We shall see!
Lexi said to me this morning “There’s gotta be some light at the end of this tunnel…” I couldn’t agree more.
When that first beer gushes from our taps, we clink our glasses, the hoppy aroma spikes our noses, and the cool bitterness hits our tongue. It’ll all be worth it.