Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant – Once a Waterfront Icon

1984 - Captain John's second floating restaurant and the Toronto Star Building on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St, looking northeast
1984 – Captain John’s second floating restaurant and the Toronto Star Building on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St, looking northeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 16)

Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant was once located on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St, on the Harbourfront of Toronto.

Toronto’s First Floating Restaurant

In 1969, John Letnik purchased the MS Normac and opened Captain John’s a year later. It was the City’s first floating restaurant. Before becoming a restaurant, the boat was a Great Lakes passenger ferry and a Detroit fire tugboat. The arrival of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant to the then-industrial area was what began the gentrification process of Toronto’s Harbourfront.

The MV Jadran – The Second Captain John’s

In 1975, Mr Letnik purchased the MV Jadran from the Yugoslavian government for $1 million. It was a 16-day voyage to get the 90 m or 295 ft former Adriatic cruise ship from Yugoslavia to Toronto. It was moored in a slip with the bow facing Yonge St, next to the existing floating restaurant.

1981 - Captain John's first harbour boat restaurant (the Normac) after being struck by a ferry
1981 – Captain John’s first harbour boat restaurant (the Normac) after being struck by a ferry (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 10)

In its glory days, the floating restaurant was very popular with locals and tourists alike. The ship hosted many special occasions, wedding receptions, celebrities, musicians, family celebrations and more.

The Sinking & Raising of the Normac

In 1981, the docked Normac was hit by a City-operated ferry boat. Two weeks later, the Normac sunk, and a years-long legal battle with the City began. The Normac was raised in 1986 and refurbished. In the mid-1990s, the boat was moved to Port Dalhousie, where it served as a floating restaurant for many years.

The Later Years of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant

Back onboard the MV Jadran, customers began to dwindle in the early 2000s, and Mr Letnik filed for bankruptcy protection. In 2007, a judge denied Mr Letnik’s application asking that his ship not be assessed for property taxes since it wasn’t a “structure.”

Final Voyage to Port Colborne

2021 – A piece of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
2021 – A piece of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne

In 2009, the MV Jadran was put up for sale; however, there were no buyers. In 2012, the City shut down the restaurant as well as the freshwater supply because thousands of dollars in back taxes were owed. Berthing fees to PortsToronto and licensing fees to Waterfront Toronto were also owed. In 2013, the City seized the ship. Two years later, and after 40 years at the foot of Yonge St, the MV Jadran was towed to the Marine Recycling Corporation (MRC) in Port Colborne for scrap metal.

Did You Know?

  • Before MS Normac became Captain Letnik’s first floating restaurant, it was called the James R Elliott. Launched in 1902, the boat served as a fire tugboat for the City of Detroit in Michigan. In the early 1930s, the fire tug was purchased by the Owen Sound Transportation Company. It was rebuilt, repowered and renamed the MS Normac after Captain Norman McKay, the company’s General Manager. The boat served as a ferry between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island until the 1960s.
  • When Mr Letnik sold the MS Normac in the mid-1980s, it became Tokyo Joe’s Marina Bar & Grill in Port Dalhousie. In 2011, there was a fire that nearly destroyed the boat; however, it was again refurbished and became the Riverboat Mexican Grill. The restaurant has since closed.
  • Before Mr Letnik bought the MV Jadran, the ship began as one of a trio of luxury passenger cruise ships for Jadrolinija Lines.
  • Built in 1957, the MV Jadran operated on the Adriatic Sea in Venice, Italy, as well as in Croatia and Greece. It could accommodate over 190 passengers and featured cabins, an elegant dining room and a lounge with a dance floor.
  • MV stands for “Motorized Vessel,” and MS stands for “Motorized Ship.”

Captain John’s Restaurant Photos

Between 1985 and 1998 – Looking southeast towards Captain John’s second floating restaurant (the Jadran) on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St
Between 1985 and 1998 – Looking southeast towards Captain John’s second floating restaurant (the Jadran) on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 16, Item 1)
2021 – A piece of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
2021 – A piece of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
2021 - Looking south from the Welland Canal into Lake Erie. A piece of Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) is located at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
2021 – Looking south from the Welland Canal into Lake Erie. A piece of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) is located at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
Between 1985 and 1998 - Looking east towards the bow of Captain John's second floating restaurant on Queens Quay, at the foot of Yonge St. Notice Redpath Sugar in the distance
Between 1985 and 1998 – Looking east towards the bow of Captain John’s second floating restaurant on Queens Quay, at the foot of Yonge St. Notice Redpath Sugar in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 16, Item 7)
1984 - Captain John's second floating restaurant and the Toronto Star Building on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St, looking northeast
1984 – Captain John’s second floating restaurant and the Toronto Star Building on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St, looking northeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 16)
1983 - Looking south towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St
1983 – Looking south towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 62, Item 61)
2021 - A piece of Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
2021 – A piece of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) at a marine recycling yard in Port Colborne
Between 1980 and 1998 - An aerial view of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) and parking lot on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St
Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view of Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) and parking lot on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 142, Item 28)
Between 1980 and 1998 - Looking east along Queens Quay towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant. Notice Redpath Sugar in the distance
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking east along Queens Quay towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant. Notice Redpath Sugar in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 142, Item 57)
2021 - The former first Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Normac), now in Port Dalhousie
2021 – The former first Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Normac), now in Port Dalhousie
1981 - Captain John's first harbour boat restaurant (the Normac) after being struck by a ferry
1981 – Captain John’s first harbour boat restaurant (the Normac) after being struck by a ferry (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 10)
1981 - Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant sinking after being struck by a ferry
1981 – Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant sinking after being struck by a ferry (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 7)
Between 1975 and 1976 - Captain John's first floating restaurant (The Normac) on Queens Quay, looking southeast
Between 1975 and 1976 – Captain John’s first floating restaurant (The Normac) on Queens Quay, looking southeast (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 328, Item 40)
1970 - The Normac before it became the first Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant
1970 – The Normac before it became the first Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 287, Item 1)
1950's - Aerial view of Toronto waterfront
1950’s – Aerial view of Toronto waterfront (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, File 380, Item 71)
Between 1985 and 1998 – Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St
Between 1985 and 1998 – Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Jadran) on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 1, Item 5)
Between 1985 and 1998 – Looking east along Queens Quay towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant and Redpath Sugar
Between 1985 and 1998 – Looking east along Queens Quay towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant and Redpath Sugar (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 16, Item 2)
Between 1975 – The Jadran before it was Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St
Between 1975 – The Jadran before it was Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant on Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 12)
Between 1981 – Looking southwest Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Normac) after it was struck by a ferry
Between 1981 – Looking southwest Queens Quay at the foot of Yonge St towards Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant (the Normac) after it was struck by a ferry (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 115, Item 5)
1983 - The Toronto Yellow Pages showing the address and phone number of the Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant
1983 – The Toronto Yellow Pages showing the address and phone number of the Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant
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