A shop owner who asked her landlord for a rent break during the coronavirus crisis was outraged when he branded her request as ‘typical Jewish behaviour’.
Larah Bross, who runs the Bross Bagels shop in Portobello, Edinburgh, received the shocking message by text.
The former actress from Canada was trying to make alternative rent payment arrangements with her landlord, Mario Aydemir Demirezen, for the next three months due to the coronavirus lockdown, as she has done with the landlords at her four other Edinburgh shops.
Larah Bross, who runs the Bross Bagels shop in Portobello, Edinburgh, was accused of ‘typical Jewish behaviour’ from her landlord when she asked for a rent break
But Mr Demirezen, who is retired and has deteriorating health, said he is stuck in Turkey due to the lockdown after going there recently for private medical care.
He says he wants April’s rent payment now because he is unable to sort out any financial assistance from outside of the UK.
Speaking from Turkey, the 66-year-old claimed Ms Bross, 42, has the money to pay this month’s rent and said that small businesses in other commercial properties he owns in Portobello have done so.
Ms Bross is adamant she can not pay after being forced to close her five Edinburgh shops and furlough 39 of her 47 staff
And he said his reference to her ‘typical Jewish behaviour’ in a text message to Ms Bross concerning the dispute should be viewed as a compliment on her ability as a clever businesswoman.
He also said he has ‘no intention of upsetting anyone’ or ‘going against any religion’.
But Ms Bross, whose Jewish identity is reflected by the kosher menu in her Montreal-style bagel shops, is adamant she can not pay after being forced to close her five Edinburgh shops and furlough 39 of her 47 staff.
She says she was ‘shocked and disgusted’ by the text message, which was sent at the weekend.
The shop owner says the fallout has exacerbated an already stressful situation which has involved shutting her shops and dealing with paperwork
She said: ‘My first thought was “wow”, I can not believe that someone, not only in this day and age but at this moment in time, can say that.
Ms Bross, who has been donating bagels to NHS workers during the lockdown, says the fallout has exacerbated an already stressful situation which has involved shutting her shops and dealing with paperwork for rent rearrangements for her other landlords, bank loans and staff furlough payments.
She said: ‘I want people to realise this is a difficult time and want to help other people who might be struggling here, other independent businesses.
‘I want landlords to be considerate to their tenants who are just trying to make it through, just like they are.’
Ms Bross says she would like to maintain a relationship with her landlord and doesn’t want to avoid paying rent, but simply arrange with him to pay it back at another time.
Ms Bross has been donating bagels to NHS workers during the lockdown and says she would like to maintain a relationship with her landlord
She says she also offered a compromise to Mr Demirezen to review the situation with coronavirus in May instead of automatically deferring the next three months’ rent.
But she is unsure if they will be able to sustain a relationship in the future given recent discussions.
An article published on Thursday in Scottish Legal News details a recent change in Scots law due to Covid-19.
The new legislation gives tenants more protection from commercial lease termination by allowing them 14 weeks warning instead of 14 days to pay rent to a landlord.
Scottish Ministers have the power to change the 14 week period by secondary legislation.
Mr Demirezen, who says he recently had two heart bypass operations and two strokes and is currently hooked up to an oxygen machine, said: ‘We are talking about the relationship between landlord and tenant here and she is a clever Jewish lady and she is taking advantage of Covid-19 and making more (money) than anyone else.
‘When I say typical Jewish, I mean they are the richest people in the world and very clever people. She should be proud of her Jewish identity.
The bagel shop owner says she offered a compromise to Mr Demirezen to review the situation with coronavirus in May
‘Jewish people are always clever and there’s nothing wrong with that, she should be proud.
‘I have no intention of upsetting anybody. All I was upset about is that all of the people in my other properties have paid up.
‘She has got money but not paying it. She is doing quite well in Edinburgh with the opening of all of these branches and she has five shops.
‘If you are running five shops in three years then you must be clever. I do not wish to fall out with her as a person and it’s nice to be nice to people.
‘I have no intention to go against any religion.’
In response to Mr Demirezen’s explanation for the meaning of his text message, Ms Bross said: ‘I would love to know in any context at any time where the term “typical Jewish” was used as a compliment.
‘I will be happy to offer free bagels for a year to anyone who can provide me with one.’