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Someone Wants to Buy Captain John’s Restaurant Boat

A Hamilton businessman says he plans to turn the ship into a casino.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kompot-photo/154328243/"}kompot.photo{/a}, from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/pool/"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Photo by {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kompot-photo/154328243/”}kompot.photo{/a}, from the {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/pool/”}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

“Captain” John Letnik’s boat/restaurant may still be safe in its slip at the foot of Yonge Street, but, in financial terms, it’s completely sunk. (The Captain reportedly owes more than half a million dollars in back taxes and rent.) Even so, a man is saying that he’s interested in buying the business so he can retrofit it into a casino, to be moored somewhere on the Hamilton waterfront.

The news first appeared Tuesday afternoon in the Hamilton Spectator. The article, which has since been updated, originally implied that a Hamilton businessman named Don Maga had already purchased the boat.

Maga, whom the Spec identifies as “an offshore product developer,” told the paper that he wants to put in a bid with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, in the hopes of turning the former restaurant, which has been shuttered on City orders since June, into a place where hard-working Hamiltonians can kick up their heels and lose a little money after work. (Not in those words, of course.) Failing that, he’d reopen it as a restaurant.

In a brief phone conversation last night with Torontoist, Maga clarified the situation. He hasn’t actually closed on the boat, though he’s currently in discussions with Letnik and Hamilton waterfront authorities. He hopes to finalize the deal soon. “I’m more than interested,” he said.

Jim Serba, who, as the operator of SaveCaptainJohn.org, is the closest thing Letnik has to a press secretary (we weren’t able to reach the captain himself), confirmed that the boat remains on the market. “There have been ongoing discussions with with several potential buyers over the last 12 months including recent discussions with a business man from Hamilton,” he wrote in an email.

Maga shows up a few times in the Spec‘s archives. In 2000, he was involved in an apparently unsuccessful bid to revive a troubled Volkswagen dealership. In 2002, he was trying to market a Chinese-built device that would override a car’s stereo to warn its driver of approaching emergency vehicles. In 2011, his bid to buy a Hamilton school building was stymied by vandalism that left the place in ruins. Also, he was reportedly barred from visiting his daughter’s school for two years because of a dispute with the principal, over school administration issues, that escalated into a criminal harassment suit. The charges against Maga were dismissed in 2007.

It’s unclear what price the ship may fetch. In 2009, Letnik listed it for $1.5 million.

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