Somewhere deep down I was hoping that my 100th location here would be one of some significance.
Thanks to a heads up from Doom, I don't think a more significant location to me personally is possible.
So excuse me if I ramble on a bit on this one......
"More Moja" = My Ocean ;)
Living in a communist country can suck to say the least.....
They don't let you speak, they can rob you of all your property on the drop of a dime and destroy your life,
if you don't follow the rules. My parents escaped the former Yugoslavia with 2 suit cases and me in their arms.
They hoped that Canada would bring a better life, for me, as well as themselves.
John Letnik also escaped the former Yugoslavia in 1957, he came with nothing, not even family, he was 15 years old.
He started as a dish washer in a Toronto restaurant and gradually worked his way to opening a small restaurant of his own.
Despite not having any culinary training, the restaurant was very successful, with John himself, serving as the cook.
Times were good, and by the mid seventies, John had big dreams of creating a restaurant like no other.
He purchased a ship called the "Normac" which operated as a ferry traveling from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island, docked it at Toronto Harbourfront and converted it to a restaurant. Again business was great so John set his sights on an even bigger endeavor.....
He returned to Yugoslavia in 1975, a very successful business man, and slapped the communist state back in the face by putting an irresistible one million dollars on the table, to purchase "Jadran" (trans: Adriatic), one of three luxury cruise liners built in the city of Split (now central Croatia) by the Jadranska Linijska Plovidba company. This is about 200 kilometers from where I was born.
The ship was built with cutting edge Swiss technology and excellence in design. A million dollars was a steal at the time.
The Jadran made it's journey across the Atlantic and was docked at Harbourfront and "Captain John's Restaurant" was born.
Both ships operated successfully, and times continued to be good.
Political events, private parties of the seventies and eighties alone, were enough to keep both ships afloat comfortably.
The Jadran was also open to the public and was the epitome of the Toronto fine dining experience.
Frequented by movie stars, political figures, rock stars and the who's who of the business world. John made friends in high places and everyone wanted a good seat at his top notch establishment.
I did have the pleasure of dining here a couple of times back in those good old days, and despite his success and wealth, John still served as the chef and visited every table, greeting guests and making sure everything was up to par and everyone was happy.
Captain John was exemplified as an outstanding citizen of Toronto with several awards, plaques and honorable citations for both his business success as well as his generosity to the homeless and less fortunate by providing free meals to the needy for decades.
In 1981, the Normac was struck by the Toronto Center Island Ferry, through no fault of it's own, and sank.
Opposing city lawyers cited every ridiculous theory in the book to make excuse to deny a simple payout for the damages.
John was sucked into the vortex of an 8 year legal battle to be rightfully compensated.
In the end, the usual story of lawyers taking it all applies here as John did win, but after all was said and done,
he took home nowhere near enough to return the ship to any remote functionality whatsoever.
"Kill all the lawyers!" ~ William Shakespeare
This began the downward spiral of the Jadran as well.....
After the giant financial hit of the NORMAC as well as the economic situation of the late 90's and early 2000's, John would see a huge drop in general patronage. The city that once hailed him as an asset to the community would suddenly all turn their backs on him. Offering zero in the way of financial subsidy or assistance to the amazing Toronto landmark, and instead hit him with a $42,000 per month property tax bill. This was the first of its kind as all water vessels, even house boats are exempt from this tax in Toronto.
This would also hinder Captain John's ability to maintain his high level of standards both in the culinary area as well as the general maintenance of the large vessel.
Soon after non payment of these astronomical compounding taxes and fees, the city shut off his water supply, thus stifling the restaurant from basic operation of cleaning dishes and keeping things sanitary etc. They then quickly followed up with health inspections that shut down the restaurant and since have given him numerous citations for not removing signs, gang planks and have invoked Marine law against him. Barring the ship from leaving the harbor as well as potential additional charges for towing the vessel from it's location even though at this point, it's moored in mud. He owes somewhere around 2 million dollars to the city of Toronto and creditors.
This ship is seeing extreme decay fast.
The big picture here, is that the once popular Toronto landmark has now become an eye sore for the condo corps who have their eyes set on further development of the area. The once exemplary citizen of Toronto is of no further use and is now being hung out to dry and his life's work being erased. There is talk of a parking lot replacing this spot.
Yugoslavia went through one of the bloodiest wars from 1991 to 1999. Croatia declared independence from the communist state and was immediately greeted by an invasion of Serbian tanks and air strikes without notice. Churches, historic sites, civilian residences, schools were all the targets of a political policy who's mission was to ethnically cleanse and wipe out all things Croatian from the Balkans. Despite severe odds fighting against this overpowering military machine, Croatia prevailed, sending their aggressors back home with their tails between their legs, gaining their recognized independence and freeing itself from communist rule.....
There is a very strong sense of peace in the region today, one that could set example for the rest of the world.
Every time I drive by this ship, I see more than just a forgotten restaurant.
It stands for so much.
Freedom, survival, accomplishment, glory and the desire of an entire generation to find a better life for themselves, and their children.
All the senseless blood spilled.....The power of a determined people, and victory to the under dog.
It really sucks living in a communist country......
The fate of the "Jadran" is a coin toss at this time.
Please visit www.savecaptainjohn.org to learn more about Captain John Letnik.
UPDATE August 1, 2014 : The Toronto Communist Corruption Corporation has private "auctioned" off this giant ship for $31,000.
The brass prop alone is easily worth that......The new owner has a few weeks to get rid of this ship, thus I would expect it gone soon.
The window to check this out is now or forever hold your peace.......hit me up if you want info.
Update August 18, 2014 : Buyer has reneged on purchase, back in limbo.