In Halloween’s dying hours, a blaze ripped through Crabby Joe’s Tap & Grill in West Hamilton. How did it start? We’ll never know for sure.
Ray Pollard, vice president of the company that runs the strip mall where Crabby Joe’s did business, says he's heard from the fire marshal. “They’ve determined the cause is indeterminable.”
Pollard says the insurance company has now brought in structural engineers to figure out whether the restaurant should be restored or torn down.
Here’s some free and fresh advice on that from an exorcist who knows the site: Tear it down. Start new. Shake off the bad karma for good.
Exorcist? Bad karma? Some background is in order.
Forty or so years ago, they built a mall on Main West, just this side of Dundas. There’s a free-standing building at the end of the parking lot. In the early days, it was a Ponderosa steak house, where compact but tender cuts of grille-marked meat arrived on stainless-steel platters with a baked potato.
In 1984, Ponderosa shut all locations in Canada. And after that, the scorned building on Main West never fell for another again. There were many suitors.
No one survived
Gliders was first, with food and rock ‘n’ roll. Then Komedy Kabaret. And Dimaggio’s. And Tony Baloney. None survived.
Maybe the building needed people who really knew the business. That would be the Prodgers, who for 15 years had been running a successful restaurant in Dundas.
The old Ponderosa site, Carole Prodger told me in 1998, “is what you’d call in the industry a ghost restaurant. There are ghosts running around here. But we’ll chase them all away.”
They called their new place Bix Brothers. In less than a year, it was gone.
Crabby Joe’s arrived – for the first time – at the beginning of 2000. It was then a young chain. And this was outlet No. 13. It lasted little more than a year.
I’d been watching all this for The Spectator and felt we needed to be doing more than simply report. We needed to take action. We needed an exorcist.
So at his home in a converted apartment off Barton, I met a long-bearded man named Micheal Teal. Poet, chimney sweep, investigator of the paranormal. He sometimes goes by the name The Ancient One. We headed out to Main West and Teal sized up the situation fast.
A cross, salt and stones
“Is there negative energy here? Absolutely,” he said. “Is it insurmountable? No. The good guys should win.”
He tied a wooden monk’s cross to the front door. Then he walked around the building twice. First he sprinkled salt, purchased at Fortino’s, later consecrated.
On his second loop he left a trail of obsidian, a shiny black stone also known as Apache tears.
Next business in the building was Players Athletic Lager Company. Prior to opening, they brought in a Greek Orthodox priest. He sprinkled holy water on the air-hockey game, the pool table, the bar, every window and the front door.
But Players was soon struggling. They closed for a while, opened again with servers wearing tighter t-shirts. That did not assuage the spirits and Players surrendered.
In 2006, Crabby Joe’s tried again. We’re not sure how well it was doing, but it had survived seven years.
The end came around 2 a.m. on Nov. 1, Halloween still in the air. The fire started at the back of the restaurant, brought down half the roof and caused $500,000 damage.
Now he's scared
We contact Chris Sideris, vice-president of the Crabby Joe’s chain, in Mississauga. The parent company is called the Obsidian Group – yes, same name as the Apache-tears stone sprinkled by The Ancient One.
Sideris has only been in the executive offices a couple of years and hadn’t heard the grim history. We give him a quick rundown. He listens to it all and makes a confession: “You just scared me.”
The exorcist. The priest. Was this building beyond redemption?
We couldn’t locate the priest, but did find Teal, The Ancient One. He’s moved on to St. Catharines now, and hadn’t heard about the fire. But he did not seem so surprised.
That building, he says, must be torn down. “It doesn’t make sense to repair it. A fresh start is always better.”
And when a new restaurant goes up, he says, there is still need for caution. The very ground itself may be cursed.
Teal recommends a priest, a pagan, a shaman, plus someone from First Nations with a smudge stick. “Everyone brings something different to the party.”