Considering what a right neighbourly joint The Real Jerk is, the treatment the place has received over the past month has been anything but. During this past Christmas break, merciless new landlords issued an eviction notice to the longstanding institution, demanding vacancy by the end of the month. The building has been sold, they told the stunned Toronto restaurateurs, and the new owners were keen to get started on converting the property into condos.
And so it is that February dawned without the reassuring knowledge that this Riverside establishment, a treasured part of the landscape for, lo, these past 29 years, would still be around. A last-minute victory, however, has secured its current-location existence for a bit longer.
Owner Ed Pottinger, who hired a lawyer with his wife Lilieth to dispute the hastiness of the eviction, spent the last day of the business’s sanctioned existence in court, fighting to stay open in his current Queen and Broadview crib at least long enough to identify another location to which to move shop.
Justice Wailan Low took pity on the restaurateur and said he could linger for a little while more. He ordered Pottinger to pay rent for January and February and, if he hasn’t scored a new site by March 1, to pony up at the new tenant’s rate — $12,000, or almost twice what he currently pays.
The Real Jerk first opened its doors in 1984, at Greenwood and Queen. In the years since, the eatery became celebrated for its authentic Jamaican fare, known for such jerk specialties as chicken, oxtail, ribs and roti. The business has been voted number one by a slew of media authorities — including The Eye, Now Magazine and the Toronto Sun — over the years. It moved into its current digs some two dozen years ago.
All hope is not lost, however, and the owners make their intentions to rise from the ashes clear. In the “heavy-hearted” message Pottinger posted to the Real Jerk website, he declares, “We are committed to building our restaurant again, and hope you will visit us as soon as we open our new doors.”