NEW YORK — WeWork, the giant shared office space company with 100 locations in New York City alone, is facing pressure from some of its tenants to close its offices.
The buildings are reportedly practically empty, as the tenants, mostly freelancers, startups and small businesses work from home. The shared spaces, where tenants often work closeto one another and use a communal kitchen, are conducive to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Two weeks ago, the New York Post reported that at least seven tenants in WeWork spaces had tested positive. The company temporarily closed down those floors and had the spaces thoroughly cleaned. Afterward, those locations were opened for business again and tenants are being billed as usual, although many believetheir shared offices are not safe to use.
Mark Macias, the owner of Macias Public Relations, has been renting office space from We Work at 34th Street and 5th Avenue for nine years. He says WeWork is keeping its locations open just so the company can continue to collect rents. He believes WeWork is in violation of New York State’s COVID-19 regulations.
“Gov. Cuomo said on March 20 that non-essential businesses would be fined for staying open.”
“WeWork is a service provider and we have an obligation to keep our buildings open,” said a spokesperson for WeWork in a statement. “Companies providing mail and shipping, security and storage are considered essential.”
However, Macias points out that WeWork’s own employees aren’t even in the building to provide services. They are working from home. When he asked WeWork to suspend his rent until the New York state lifts the quarantine, he says “They offered me half off in April and half off in May, but I would have to sign a one year lease extension.”
Since he is on a month-to-month lease he refused and has told management he is leaving at the end of the month.
A spokesperson for the New York State Attorney General says “We have received about a dozen complaints regarding WeWork cut cannot confirm or deny any investigation.”
In Washington D.C., 800 tenants of We Work locations in that city signed a petition demanding the offices be closed and rents refunded. But WeWork executives say it will keep all its locations open as long as it is safe to do so.
Some tenants believe the company’s actions have a lot to do with WeWork’s financial difficulties. Once the darling of Wall Street, the company had a failed IPO last year, has gone through a management shake up and recently fired more than 100 employees.
Bloomberg News recently reported that We Work has not paid its April rent to a number of its buildings’ landlords and is attempting to renegotiate it’s leases.
“If it’s good enough for WeWork to not pay its landlords, who can’t We Work go to their own tenants and say ‘Hey, we’re giving you a break’?”