Captain John's Toronto

A fond farewell to Captain John's Seafood Restaurant

Captain John's, the iconic but dilapidated floating restaurant at the foot of Yonge Street, has sunk into the deadpool, after the city rescinded the establishment's lease and turned off its water supply. That the old relic met this fate isn't all that surprising — especially given the whopping $500,000 in back taxes and unpaid bills the business has racked up — but it's difficult for those prone to fits of nostalgia not to get a little misty-eyed at the thought of a waterfront without its kitschy mainstay.

While it was obvious that Captain John's, appropriately named after its owner and operator John Letnik, had fallen on hard times when the boat was put up for sale back in late 2009, news that the restaurant has been shuttered still seems rather sudden — especially given the fact that its captain had successfully navigated his way through a number of crises over the years. The original boat (the Normac), for instance, actually sunk back in 1981 when it was hit by a ferry.

Barring a miracle, however, this is the end of the line for Captain John's. The city has given Letnik until July 27 to remove the MS Jadran (the name of the current boat) from its longstanding home. Some will say good riddance and point out that the boat had become an eyesore, but as a polished new Queens Quay begins to take shape, this throwback to the area's grittier days served as a connection to our waterfront history. Wouldn't it be great if the boat could be repurposed rather than exiled or scrapped?

By way of saying goodbye, the folks at Squire Entertainment were kind enough to share with us a compelling short documentary on Captain John Letnik that screened last March at the International Documentary Challenge (IDC) and Hot Docs. Directed by Rich Williamson, as per the generic stipulations of the IDC categories, it isn't a comprehensive look at the restaurant — hence the lack of focus on its financial troubles — but it does offer an intriguing portrait of the man on the bridge.

Get your dose of Captain John's while you still can.


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