What's next for Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant?
The clock is ticking on a deal involving Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant.
The sale of the Toronto landmark was approved in a court-ordered auction a week ago. The balance of funds in that $33,501 transaction are due today.
Local entrepreneur James Sbrolla and his brother will formally own the ship once those funds are handed over.
According to the court order, that ship has to be removed from the harbour as of two weeks tomorrow.
Sbrolla admits he's under the gun.
"There's an incredible amount of pressure," Sbrolla told CBC News in an interview from the ship on Thursday morning.
But he's enjoying it.
"We're climbing a mountain," he said.
It's still not clear where the ship will go, or what will happen to it in the days ahead.
Some people have pitched Sbrolla on reviving it as a restaurant. Others have suggested making it a casino, a museum or even a dog spa.
For Sbrolla, the goal is to see the ship reach its highest potential. That means starting with the possibility of saving the ship as a whole and then looking at alternatives.
Just as pressing is the question as to whether it can be moved by the Aug. 22 deadline. However, as of late Thursday afternoon, Sbrolla said that did not appear to be possible because the hydro would not be able to be disconnected before that point.
'A Toronto business hero'
Sbrolla has fond memories of Captain John's, having both dined on the boat and attended a late-night party in the past. He has also sailed by it many times.
His late father was a fan of the captain himself, seeing him as "a Toronto business hero," not unlike Ed Mirvish.
"He put his life into this ship," said Sbrolla, referring to John Letnik, the man behind the Captain John's story.
Letnik and his business have long been a fixture on Toronto’s waterfront.
"I was the first here in the harbour in '69," said Letnik, in an interview with CBC News on Thursday.
The ship still has pictures up of events held on the ship over the years, some in black in white — like the undated one of Letnik standing with a bunch of bikini-clad women on the deck.
There are also newspaper clippings about the business and various letters posted.
"It takes a great deal of hard work and commitment to keep a business strong for three decades," reads a congratulatory letter from former premier Mike Harris, dated Aug. 8, 2000.
But Captain John's had its water shut off two years ago, after Letnik fell behind on some financial obligations.
Today, the ship is a long way from its glory days. Paint is peeling on many surfaces, moss is growing on decks and its interiors have a strong, musty smell. When Sbrolla spoke to CBC Radio's Metro Morning last week, he described it as looking "pretty scary."
A trip to the Captain John's kitchen gives a glimpse into the ship's restaurant history.
Hawaiian chicken ($14.95) and seafood crepes ($12.95) are among two of the options listed on a faded menu posted on the wall.
There are preparation instructions for specific tour groups, breaking down the number of chicken-versus-seafood plates. Another calls for purple napkins to be set out for an event.
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