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'Uncooperative landlord', COVID protocols force Fran's Restaurant to close downtown location

Last Updated Dec 16, 2020 at 4:50 pm EDT

Discarded Fran's Restaurant sign sits on the ground at its Yonge and Front streets location. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

The owner of Fran’s Restaurant says it will be permanently closing its Yonge and Front streets location at the end of this year.

Robert Kim, whose family now owns the business which opened its first restaurant in 1940, says the combination of an “uncooperative landlord” and the current COVID-19 measures preventing restaurants from operating has forced them to shutter the location as of December 31st.

Kim says they were in the process of negotiating a new lease when COVID hit earlier this spring, forcing them to table those talks and move forward on a month-to-month basis. He says that while the property management were supportive during the initial lockdown phase, things changed as the second wave forced the business to close once again.

“I think what small businesses are looking for is a more timely application of the programs that [government’s] put in place to support small businesses, such as rent relief,” said Kim. “Announcing it is one thing but when you lift the moratorium on evictions, but don’t release rent relief, it provides a massive loop hole for landlords to evict their tenants. Unfortunately, that is what happened to us.”

Kim says the last two weeks have been difficult for his family, as all the hard work and sweat equity they put into making the location a success falls by the wayside.

“We’re all in a tough spot here,” explained Kim. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, there’s so many moving parts and there’s a lot of risks and its tough no matter how you look at it, whether you’re a landlord, a tenant. I think that the best that we can do is to continue to support small businesses, shop local.”

Kim says despite the closure, they will be looking for alternate locations and hopefully expand “in the near future.”

Francis “Fran” Deck opened the first restaurant at Yonge and St. Clair, described as a “modest, ten-stool diner” that offered comfort food classics such as burgers, homemade apple pie and all-day breakfast that was available 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Kim’s family took over the College Street location in 1997 from a group of investors who had bought the family-owned chain following Deck’s death in 1976. Then in 1998, the family acquired the rest of the Fran’s Restaurant company.

Originally opened in 2010 across from the Meridian Hall, the closure of the Yonge and Front restaurant will leave just two locations open – one at Yonge and College and the other at Victoria and Shuter streets.