In May 1981, during a full dinner service, the MS Normac was struck by the Trillium, a ferry operated by Parks and Recreation Toronto. Diners were caught by surprise as the Normac twisted, sending dishes, tables, and people to the floor. John was not aboard at the time of the collision and rushed to the Normac, where he had to evacuate staff and customers. Everyone made it off the ship safely and nobody was seriously hurt, but the Normac would sink to the bottom of the harbour as a result of the collision.John took the city to court to seek damages, but he wasn’t awarded enough to raise the boat. He appealed in a federal court and won, but the city would take the case all the way to the supreme court before agreeing to a settlement.The Normac was underwater for 6 years, but John eventually raised, refurbished, and sold the boat.
A Newer Bigger Boat – The Jadran
The Jadran was a luxury cruise ship, which operated for several years in the Adriatic and Aegean seas. John purchased the ship in 1975 for a million dollars from the Yugoslav government and brought the boat to Toronto. The Jadran opened in May of 1976 as a second location for his restaurant servicing private parties, banquets, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. After the sinking of the Normac in 1981 John had to open a second level of the Jadran for general dining that would eventually remain as the main dining area for over 30 years.
Over the past 20 years John’s business has been shrinking. He’s been hit by recessions, poor tourism, and even SARS. The restaurant no longer attracted the local Torontonian foodies or famous faces and the lavish corporate parties and weddings disappeared. John worked out deals with nearby hotels and tour companies to bring French tourists from Montreal and Japanese tourists looking for novelty restaurants. John kept his head high and did everything he could to survive but he was barely able to the bills.