Prominent lawyer and property owner Joe Cotchett is waiving two months’ rent for his 65 Half Moon Bay tenants, which include retail businesses and restaurants, to help soften the financial blow dealt by the coronavirus outbreak.
“We think it’s the right thing to do to give back to this community,” Cotchett said. “The crisis is devastating small stores up and down the coast and along our Main Street. They’re all getting hammered and landlords have to step up to the plate and share the loss.”
Cotchett is hoping the move will inspire other landlords to also offer assistance to their tenants, but he’s so far yet to hear of another in the county doing so.
Cotchett owns eight buildings on Main Street and his tenants, which include insurance companies in addition to retail, pay between $1,500 and $4,000 per month. In April and May, they will pay nothing.
Among the buildings owned by Cotchett is the Debenedetti building, located at 401 Main St., that is home to Crow’s Nest, a women’s clothing boutique, among other businesses that have been closed since March 17 because of the countywide shelter-in-place order.
“This has been a tremendous gift. Words cannot express my gratitude,” said Crow’s Nest owner Angela Forte. The boutique has been in business for seven years and Forte described it as “my everything, my passion and my future for my kids.”
“This gift helps keep the business afloat,” she added. “Without it we’d fall behind.”
Josh Warshauer, who owns the jewelry store Goldworks at 542 Main St., said the rent relief is allowing him to retain his two employees.
“Having this amount of savings allows me to keep my staff on payroll and keep them supported,” he said, adding that Cotchett offered similar assistance during the 2008 crash when his parents owned the business. “He wants to see the community thrive and do the right thing and I’m so fortunate to have a landlord with that mentality.”
Natasha Bass, owner of home goods store Home Town Mercantile at 416 Main St. said the news brought tears to her eyes.
“It honestly brought tears. It was such a huge relief to hear they’d do that. Not many are that generous,” she said after describing the last few weeks as “shocking and scary.” She added the rent forgiveness has freed her up to pay other looming bills and even purchase new products that previously she would’ve been too nervous to buy given the circumstances.
Cotchett is confident all his tenants will be able to weather the storm brought on by the virus in part because of the relief he’s provided. And if businesses are forced to remain closed beyond the projected end of the shelter-in-place order, Cotchett is prepared to extend his offer.
“We’re all in this together. We have to keep these people well,” he said. “If one store goes out the others go and it ruins the whole entire economy of the coast.”
Cotchett, who currently lives in San Mateo, has had countless high-profile assignments over the course of his five-decade career, including representing the National Football League and the outed Central Intelligence Agency spy Valerie Plame. He’s also been involved in litigation resulting from major corporate scandals including Enron, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. He is currently involved in litigation relating to the Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City.
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