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Because Working People 'Deserve a Rent Holiday as Much as the Cheesecake Factory,' Demand for Relief Grows

"We must add a 90-day grace period for those impacted by COVID-19 for rent payments before April 1."

The Cheesecake Factory announced Wednesday its restaurants would not pay rent on April 1 in light of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Greenville Daily Photo/Flickr/cc)

Social media users Thursday ironically praised restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory for potentially taking the first step toward a nationwide rent strike after the corporation told its landlords it would not pay rent at nearly 300 properties on April 1 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Observers more seriously demanded to know why working Americans should still be expected to pay their landlords considering millions of people lost jobs this month due to the outbreak.

According to a letter obtained by Eater, the Cheesecake Factory cited "severely decreased" cash flow and a "tremendous financial blow" as a reason to not pay rent after temporarily closing 27 of its locations and transitioning to a take-out and delivery model at others.

"Due to these extraordinary events, I am asking for your patience and, frankly, your help," CEO David Overton wrote to the company's landlords. 

The news sparked a surprised reaction from observers including Solomon Rajput, a progressive congressional candidate in Michigan.

As other large retail and hospitality chains—including H&M, Subway, and Mattress Firm—indicated that they would not pay rent in April to help cope with financial losses, many critics called for a moratorium on rent for Americans with far fewer resources than the companies.

"Raise your hand if you think humans deserve a rent holiday as much as the Cheesecake Factory does," artist and writer Molly Crabapple tweeted.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the U.S. this month and as business establishments and schools close their doors to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is among the progressives calling for a moratorium on rent payments.

The average American renter has a net worth of about $5,400, while the Cheesecake Factory's total assets in 2019 were $2.84 billion.

As the New York Times reported earlier this month, the company, which employs about 45,000 people, is one of many chains which do not provide its workers with paid sick leave.

"Cheesecake Factory is simultaneously doing a rent strike and refusing to give its workers paid sick leave," tweeted blogger David Hines, while radio personality Gregg "Opie" Hughes wrote that the money the Cheesecake Factory saves on April 1 should go directly to its workers.

The news of large corporations planning to skip rent payments came as California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state had commitments from several large banks to allow a 90-day grace period on mortgage payments due April 1. 

"This is going in the right direction but why is the protection only for mortgage payments? What about rent?" asked Shahid Buttar, an attorney and human rights advocate who is challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this year. "We must add a 90-day grace period for those impacted by COVID-19 for rent payments before April 1."

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