Thunder Bay would lose a "culinary and cultural landmark" if the Hoito Restaurant is unable to survive the current financial woes at the Finlandia Association, says the city's tourism manager Paul Pepe.

The treasurer of the Finlandia Association, which runs the Hoito, told CBC news the group is $700,000 in debt and just "scraping by" month-to-month to make payroll at the restaurant.

The Hoito is a magnet for the 20 to 30 travel writers the city hosts each year to promote Thunder Bay as a travel destination, Pepe said. 

Paul Pepe, Tourism Thunder Bay

Visitors to Thunder Bay are interested in the city's "back story" and the Hoito is a great representation of that history, says Paul Pepe, manager of Thunder Bay's tourism division. (Paul Pepe)

"More and more people are interested in the culture and the history and why we're here," he said. "I think the Hoito and the Finlandia really represent a lot of the history of European settlement in the community."

The Hoito is also a "cornerstone" of the trendy Bay and Algoma business area, Pepe said.

A business owner in the area agrees.

"What the Hoito does is bring in a whole other demographic of Thunder Bay," said Bean Fiend coffee shop owner Brian Hamilton. "They bring in the Walmart shoppers. Just the regular, regular people. And that's actually what makes the area successful."

One of the best ways to ensure the Hoito's survival is to go there, Pepe said.

"If people are concerned, the best thing they can do is eat more pancakes," he said.