S.W. Welch closing Shiller Lavy

War of words erupts between S.W. Welch and Shiller Lavy

In an interview with Cult MTL, the infamous Mile End landlords defended their reputation, but their facts don’t gel.

Shiller Lavy co-founder Danny Lavy contacted Cult MTL on Saturday evening with a wide-ranging response to our story about the rent hike that may force Mile End bookstore S.W. Welch to close.

“I bought this building, this tenant was there from 15 years ago with a lease that was 15 years old,” he said in reference to the bookstore. “He was paying $2,500 gross. I offered it to him for $3,500 gross. That’s 20% more [sic]. He never offered to show me his financial statements. Frankly I don’t want to see. It’s not my business. But for all I know he no longer has a viable business.”

When asked about bookstore owner Stephen Welch’s claim that Shiller Lavy has asked for a 150% rent increase, Lavy replied, “It’s ridiculous. He’s talking nonsense. He can’t even offer to pay any rent. It’s nonsense, really nonsense. We’re looking to keep him. The last thing we’re looking is to get rid of him. From $2,500 to $3,500, that’s not 150%. What he’s not taking into consideration is the taxes. I’m not looking to throw him out. I don’t even know if he can make a living, between me and you. But I know one thing — during the whole coronavirus, the city never said to me, ‘Don’t pay taxes.’ Even though they shut my tenants down.”

Welch and his wife Beany Peterson dispute Lavy’s figures. They say the bookstore currently pays a total of $2,000 per month for its space, including fees and taxes. They say Shiller Lavy now wants to increase the net rent to $3,000, plus an additional $2,000 for taxes, insurance and maintenance – 150% more than they now pay. “Mr. Lavy’s figures were not only inaccurate, they are an attempt to cloud the true figures,” says Peterson.

Lavy says the pandemic has led to major losses for his company. “What upsets me the most is I’ve lost $10-million this year,” he says. “The coronavirus has destroyed us. I have Kampai — they’ve paid nothing. Whatever they collected from the government, they’ve paid us 50%. I’m working with every single tenant I have and at the end of the day you’re telling me about a bookstore whose rent is going up because of the city taxes. The rent is going up because [the mayor] has reevaluated the building and she’s charging me a fortune. What am I going to do? Not pay taxes? They’re going to repossess the building. It’s time for them to change the tax structure. No retail can afford to pay it now. We’re going to be dead. We’re going to have empty streets like Ste-Catherine, St-Denis.”

Lavy also commented on concerns about gentrification in Mile End. “If you tell me the gentrification of the street has changed, it hasn’t changed because of the few buildings I own on the street. It’s because Ubisoft came, [commercial REIT] Allied came — they charge $30 a foot on those properties on Casgrain. They make more money per square foot than I’m making on retail stores.”

Lavy insists that Shiller Lavy is leading a renaissance of St-Viateur. “Look what I did to every building on the street. Look at what I did to the Lululemon store. It’s so pretty. I installed these big windows that slide open. They’re not paying a lot of rent. Do you want nobody to open anywhere?” He pointed to QDC Burger, a new restaurant that opened on St-Viateur in 2018. “It was a kosher fish store before that was awful. And now look at it. Don’t look at it and tell me it’s not cute.

Lavy blamed the municipal government — and specifically Mayor Valérie Plante — for any woes faced by businesses. “The sad part is there’s no parking,” he added. “The mayor has taken away the parking.”

Lavy also commented on the restrictions imposed by Quebec Premier François Legault in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I would like to understand from Legault — you want to shut everything down. Florida’s wide open. Are we going to turn this into a communist country? Into a socialist country?”

For the record, according to public city of Montreal documents obtained by Cult MTL, the municipal taxes on the building housing S.W. Welch have actually been lowered between 2020 and 2021. Shiller Lavy has been billed $45,261.71 for 2021, compared to $49,528.06 in 2020. ■

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