Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant
Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant is a defunct restaurant and banquet hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the MS Jadran a former Adriatic passenger ship now permanently docked at Yonge Street and Queen's Quay on Toronto's waterfront. The ship is actually on a small lane way at the foot of Yonge Street called Captain John's Pier. The restaurant was open every day of the year, including all major holidays such as Christmas and New Year's Day.
The restaurant was owned and operated by John Letnik who came to Canada as a refugee from Yugoslavia in 1957. He opened the restaurant aboard the MS Normac in 1970. The Normac had served several years with the Detroit Fire Department and then as a ferry that travelled between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island. In 1975 Letnik bought the larger Jadran from the Yugoslav government. The Jadran was one of three luxury cruise ships built in Split for the Jadranska Linijska Plovidba company. For several years it operated as a luxury cruise ship in the Adriatic and Aegean. Letnik purchased the ship in 1975 for a million dollars, and it became a second location for his restaurant. As well as being its owner, Letnick also serves as chef.
The ship was one of many attractions in the area known as Harbourfront.
In 1981 the Normac was struck by then Metro Toronto Parks-operated ferry Trillium and sunk. No one was hurt, but the restaurant was destroyed. This set off a long legal battle between Letnik and the city. Letnik was eventually awarded damages, but reportedly not enough to compensate for the destruction. The Normac was raised and refurbished and served as a floating restaurant in other communities with the Jadran being the sole home of Captain John's since then.
While in the 1970s and 1980s, the floating restaurant was a desired culinary destination attracting prominent diners such as Brian Mulroney, Mel Lastman, Robert Campeau and Steve Stavro, it lost favour as the city's gastronomical scene became more sophisticated and diverse. More recent reviews from local papers rated its culinary fare as average, despite the restaurant's boasts of having "the best seafood in town!" Reviews by patrons are decidedly mixed. The restaurant's clientele is primarily tourists and many bus tours stop at Captain John's.
Bankruptcy, closure and sale attempts
In 2002 Captain John's filed for bankruptcy, owing over $5 million to various creditors including $3 million to unsecured creditors. Letnik's bankruptcy proposal involved the repayment of all unsecured creditors owed $5000 or less and a repayment of no more than $30000 to all other unsecured creditors.
Temporary 2008 closure after health department inspection
In August 2008, Toronto public health officials ordered the restaurant closed after citing it for 11 separate infractions, including 'Operator fail to maintain premises free of sewage back-up' and 'Operator fail to ensure food is not contaminated/adulterated'. The owner was fined $2,160.
Attempts to sell and final closure
In 2009 owner John Letnik put the restaurant up for sale at a list price of $1.5 million and has subsequently reduced his asking price to $1.1 million. Despite nearly forty years of operation, Letnik was unable to sell the restaurant. Finally, in June 2012, the Toronto Port Authority rescinded the lease agreement for the slip where the ship was moored, citing over $500,000 in payments owed for back taxes, rent and utility payments. At the same time the City shut off the boat's water supply, in turn causing a health department inspector to order the restaurant closed due to the staff's inability to sanitize dishes and wash their hands. The owner was given until July 27, 2012, to remove the boat's gangplank and all restaurant signs, and the Toronto Port Authority has invoked marine law to order that the ship “must refrain from leaving" until its debts to the city and the port authority is paid. The Jadran's engine has been removed, and the ship is reportedly mired in mud, meaning the vessel would have to be towed from its current location.
In September 2013, with Letnik now owing more than $1 million in taxes, licensing fees, and berthing fees, the city initiated the process of seizing the vessel. Letnik declared he would not abandon the ship and might even chain himself to it.
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- Alcoba, Natalie. "Captain John's owner refuses to abandon floating restaurant as city struggles to recover $660K in back taxes". National Post. Retrieved 2013-09-11.
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