Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

BIO HAZARD IN THE KIEZ – PART 2: No longer bio but still risky as hell


Almost exactly two months have passed since our last report about the problems faced by the small local cleaner´s in Skalitzer Strasse 70 (the post available here). Frau Scheffler, the Wäscherei owner, was about to loose her lease of the rooms she´s been occupying for 30 years. To make space for another organic supermarket that would (and most probably will as they´ve just rented the rooms next to the cleaner´s) finish off several of the small local organic grocery shops.

Somebody said once: “There is no such thing as good news – there is only news and the things you don´t know about yet.” Which seems to be true at least in this case.

Soon after the news of the planned “unfriendly” takeover leaked out and the organic supermarket chain had to watch their image being dipped and dragged through the (very much organic) mire, the wind of change started blowing yet again: it brought what seemed like good news, indeed.

The supermarket chain would back off, the cleaner´s can keep the rooms and all would be good in the world. Or not. For it seems that the Dark Powers of Capitalism would find their way around and through whether we like it or not. Frau Scheffler´s lease contract has, indeed, been extended – for another two years to begin with – but at the same time the rent has been raised.

Which is fine and dandy, for as we know the costs of Everything are growing so the rents can go up a bit as well. But if that “bit” means 25% of the price then we should talk about the hike again.

Now, instead of the monthly EU 1,500 Frau Scheffler is supposed to cough up EU 450 more and thus reach the magic level of almost 2,000 Euros per month. Is 2,000 a lot, you could ask? Well, obviously, that depends. A quick survey among the shop-owners in the Kiez would tell you that the former chemist on the corner of Wrangel-, Skalitzer and Lübbener Strasse left behind over 200m2 of rooms worth EU 4,000 a month. Over 200m2 being a bit much, how about renting something smaller? Like 65m2 in the basement? For 1,800 Euros.

Since most of the shops in the neighbourhood are alive with the sound of money rolling, such rents must be seen as affordable. There are people who can and are willing to pay them. Like in the case of Bio-Company who would have been happy to pay more than the Textil Wäscherei ever paid before. So it seems only fair that Frau Scheffler, too, should be expected to loosen the purse strings a bit.

Only that everybody – the least Frau Scheffler´s landlords – knows that those loose strings will become (commercially speaking) the rope around her neck. Additional 500 Euros of a burden for a business in which an average customer pays between 7 and 10 Euros will most probably prove deadly. Which might suggest that the rent hike is not so much a necessity as part of the owners´ long-term planning strategy. Is this truly a plot? Is it certain? Of course not. Is it likely? Is it possible? Hell, yes!

The moral of this story is: the only good news is no news at all. And as soon as you hear the “good news”, start digging around.

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