Skip to main content

John Letnik, owner of Captain John's Seafood restaurant and the ship it is housed in, doesn’t intend to leave his property behind.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Time is running out for Captain John's, the former floating restaurant at the foot of Yonge Street.

John Letnik, owner of the aging vessel, owes the city $648,947 in taxes, water charges and penalties, and another $216,871 to the Toronto Port Authority in rent. More than a year ago, the city turned off the water in an effort to get him to move along.

As Mr. Letnik watched from the public gallery Friday afternoon, council agreed to take steps to seize the ship, which no longer has a working engine. Councillors also asked staff to work with Waterfront Toronto to find a way to recognize Mr. Letnik's role in revitalizing the city's downtown shoreline.

Despite the gesture, Mr. Letnik, 75, vowed to keep fighting. "I am not leaving the ship yet," he said "I am not finished yet."

Councillor Joe Mihevc, who spent a summer working on the boat in his youth, said he is sad to see the end of a business started by an immigrant to the city who saw the potential of the waterfront.

"He took a risk. He made it happen," he said. "I am sad to see the boat go."

A confidential staff report approved by council recommends confiscating the ship as a way to remove it from the prime piece of waterfront, which is slated for redevelopment, Councillor Pam McConnell has confirmed to The Globe and Mail..

The action would be taken under the Marine Act and would be done in a partnership with the Port Authority and Waterfront Toronto.

The Toronto Port Authority has jurisdiction over the water where the boat is anchored and has "first-ranking lien" over the ship for berthing fees.

Mr. Letnik also owes licence fees to Waterfront Toronto for the use of the land adjacent to the berth.