The Real Jerk Just Wants Time
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The Real Jerk Just Wants Time

Judge will decide tomorrow whether to grant an injunction that would give the Real Jerk more time at its current location.

Ed Pottinger, owner of the Real Jerk, celebrates despite the looming last night for the iconic restaurant at Queen and Broadview.

Ed Pottinger’s uncle always told him that a knockdown is not a knockout, and he continues to live by those words. Pottinger is the owner of the much loved Riverside restaurant the Real Jerk, which was set to close today after almost 24 years. Not by choice though: the restaurant received an eviction notice Decemeber 30, giving them one month’s notice to leave. Pottinger hopes to delay the eviction to buy some time to find a new location amid an outpouring of community support.

Today, a judge bolstered that hope just a tiny bit: after hearing from the Real Jerk, its old landlord, and the new building owner, he said he will mull the case overnight and decide tomorrow whether to grant an injunction that would give the restaurant more time at its current location.

Monday night saw what could be the last night of service at the Real Jerk and while the first real snowfall of the season put a damper on the numbers, the scene inside was full of love and appreciation. With only about 30 diners and a steady line of take-out customers, they weren’t the high numbers seen last week, but patrons still enjoyed their Red Stripe, Ting, and plates of roti and jerk chicken.

The eviction notice has sparked an outpouring of support from the community, with some blaming the eviction on the increasing gentrification of the area. “The sale was completed December 29 and we received our eviction notice the next day. That amount of time is just completely unrealistic,” Pottinger told us last night. “A month or so ago I didn’t know what gentrification was. There is nothing wrong with improving an area, but it hurts to be the one kicked out.”

There weren’t many tears or visible signs of emotion last night, but there was a real sense of loss. Many held out hope for a temporary reprieve and no matter how the judge rules there is still hope for a resurrection of the Real Jerk at a new location. Pottinger says he had his doubts that he would try to re-open, but the public support has changed his mind. His first choice would be to stay in the area, and if not, possibly a new spot in Leslieville or the surrounding neighbourhood. He has nothing but thanks for his customers, family, staff, and fans, including Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth). As of Monday evening, over 2,200 people had signed a petition urging Mayor Rob Ford and the city council to save the Real Jerk and protect family-run businesses in Toronto.

For now, he says, he is just looking for more time to manage the transition; he describes the eviction notice as a complete surprise. He told us that because he trusted the previous landlord, the Real Jerk does not have a current written lease. This has lead to confusion over whether it was a month-to-month or year-to-year tenancy. In the case of month-to-month agreements, one month notice is acceptable under the Commercial Tenancies Act.

As revealed in court today, the new landlord wants the next tenant, a pub, to be in by February 1 to be ready for St. Patrick’s Day, and had raised the rent from $6,300 per month to $12,000.

According to the Real Jerk’s bulletins, the judge has ruled that the termination of the lease may have been unlawful because the old landlord had an employee sign a document stating that the lease was month-to-month. Because of this and other technicalities to consider, the judge decided to take until tomorrow to consider his ruling. The Real Jerk has, at least, one more day, at Queen and Broadview.