The Demise of Captain John’s

Captain John’s was a popular restaurant when it opened in 1975, and for several decades it was a fixture, offering an alternative ambience for eating. But neglect and a change in consumer’s taste has resulted in its demise. While the advertisements on the Web suggest and clean place where good food is served, the reality is that this place became a “dump.” Ratings on the Web were poor. In other words, you take your life in your hands if you eat there.

Shortly after I captured this photo in June, the city forced the closure of Captain John’s. Here’s what the Toronto Star reported:

Captain John’s floating restaurant — a fixture on Toronto’s waterfront since 1975 — has been shut down by the city.

Waterfront Toronto rescinded its lease for land at the foot of Yonge St. Tuesday and warned “Captain” John Letnik that he has until July 27 to remove the gangplank to the ship and all restaurant signs.

Toronto Port Authority has cautioned the Captain that the ship must stay where it is.

At the same time, the City of Toronto shut off water to the ship and a health department inspector ordered the restaurant closed because staff would be unable to wash utensils or their hands.

Photos: Captain John’s Restaurant

“It’s heartbreaking. They’re going to have to take the boat over and I’ll be walking the streets,” said Letnik, who’s lived on his beloved ship, the Jadran, since 1983.

Letnik owes more than $500,000 in back taxes, rent and insurance on the slip and 300-foot ship. The captain has been trying to find a buyer and, while he claims to have had some interest, no one was willing to sink millions into the decrepit landmark without a long-term lease on the slip.

The Port Authority, Waterfront Toronto and civic officials had been quietly hoping the ship would just go away — and had been getting increasingly impatient in their demands for payment — because the rusting hulk sits next to a part of the eastern waterfront undergoing a remarkable renaissance.

It’s unclear what happens next. The ship will most likely have to be towed away to a scrap yard because it has no engine and is mired deep in the muck of Lake Ontario.