Plateau restaurant Khyber Pass out of options after 10-year battle over facade

For the last decade, the restaurant has featured a wooden exterior facing the street. The borough wants the owner to change that, but he's not interested.

Owner must tear down wooden exterior by Nov. 30

Plateau restaurant Khyber Pass features a unique wooden facade on its exterior facing Duluth Ave. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

The owner of a Plateau restaurant says he has run out of options after trying to get his restaurant's unique facade accepted by the borough for the last 10 years.

Khyber Pass, an Afghan restaurant on Duluth Avenue, has been open since the 1990s. For the last decade, it has featured a wooden exterior facing the street.

"I did this facade without a permit because I was not thinking that we need a permit," said Faruk Ramisch, who owns the restaurant and the building it resides in.

When he was told that he needed a permit, he applied. But that application was rejected, and he has been fighting to get his restaurant's unique look approved by the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough ever since — paying fines and re-applying for a permit.

The borough has ruled the facade does not conform to the traditional look of the street and surrounding buildings.

This year, he was given an ultimatum: either take the facade down or the borough will do it for him.

"If it's too much wood, I will reduce the wood. But minimum give me one reason," said Ramisch, who is originally from Afghanistan.

'The jewel of Duluth'

"It's just beautiful," said Xavier Bonneau Subirana. He lives two blocks away and walks past Khyber Pass every day.

"I can tell it's one of the nicest restaurants," he said.

"When I was passing by it, I thought it was so different and so beautiful, it really caught my eye," said Thays Vidal, who is originally from Brazil and moved into the neighbourhood last month.

"I think it contributes to the beauty of the neighbourhood."

Ramisch says he is tired of fighting the borough. He has signed an agreement stipulating that if he does not remove the facade himself by Nov. 30, then the borough will proceed on its own.

The restaurant has been in a 10-year battle with the borough over its facade. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

He estimates it would cost him $100,000 to remove the facade and rebuild it to conform to the borough's norms.

"What doesn't fit on the street?" he asks. "This is the jewel of Duluth"

The borough declined an interview request from CBC News, but said in a statement that it has made "significant efforts" to familiarize Ramisch with the borough's regulations both in writing and in person, and that he has not proposed an architectural compromise.

Ramisch says he will be leaving the country in November with no intention of removing the facade before the deadline.

He says he'll leave it to the borough to take care of it as winter sets in. If this means he has to close the restaurant, Ramisch says so be it — and that, at 67, he's ready for retirement.

With files from Navneet Pall