Skip to main content

Zane Caplansky speaks to reporters outside his delicatessen Caplansky's, located at College St. and Brunswick Ave. on June 7 2016.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's popular Caplansky's Deli has been shuttered after a dispute between the restaurant's owner and his landlord.

The conflict came to a head just before midnight on Monday when Zane Caplansky was awakened by a phone call from his alarm company telling him the burglar alarm had been triggered at his flagship location on College Street.

Mr. Caplansky rushed to the restaurant and found a bailiff, a locksmith and a strangely worded notice on the door saying he had been evicted for "failing to effect repairs not authorized by the landlord."

"It doesn't make sense. What repairs did I not get consent to not do?" Mr. Caplansky said.

The bailiff, S. Wilson & Co. Bailiffs Ltd., said it had acted under the Commercial Tenancies Act, which allows a landlord to "take action when there is a breach of a lease," president Harvey Greber said.

"There's a reason for it and the tenant would know," he said.

Mr. Caplansky, who said he paid his rent on time earlier on Monday, said he and landlord Walter Kung fought over repair bills earlier this year but insisted he has paid the invoices.

"There's no funds owing. And that's not even what's being claimed here," he said. "What's claimed here is that repairs were not affected that were not authorized by him. It doesn't make sense."

Reached by phone, Mr. Kung declined comment and referred questions to his lawyer, who did not return a voice message.

The conflict began in January when plumbers hired by Mr. Kung set off the building's sprinkler system while replacing hot water tanks for the upstairs tenants, causing a flood in the basement, Mr. Caplansky said.

When a $1,700 bill arrived from the sprinkler company, Mr. Caplansky forwarded it to his landlord "because it was his fault. It was nothing that I did," he said.

In return, Mr. Caplansky says he received a notice of default from Mr. Kung's lawyer telling him he would be evicted if he didn't pay the invoice within 15 days. Mr. Caplansky sought legal advice and was told to pay the bill and then sue his landlord for the amount in small-claims court.

A few months later, when the city's fire inspector ordered that the building's fire panel be replaced, Mr. Caplansky said he paid about $7,500 to do so after his landlord refused.

Mr. Caplanksy, who says he is out about $15,000 in repairs and legal fees related to the dispute, said he hadn't yet started the small-claims court process.

"Now all of those expenses will get rolled into these expenses and he's going to have to pay," he said.

Mr. Caplansky, who has sold his signature smoked meat sandwiches from the location for seven years, said he plans to hire a litigator and appear before a judge to get an injunction against the default order so he can reopen.

The restaurateur, who operates his catering business and food truck out of the College Street location, said the dispute affects 55 employees. He also has a restaurant in Yorkville and two locations at Pearson International Airport.

Mr. Caplansky said while he did renovations at the flagship deli with his landlord's permission in 2011, his lease was subsequently renewed and he doesn't think the eviction is related to that.

"I can't possibly imagine how the landlord would renew our lease two years ago if there was any dispute over renovations that happened three years before that."