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'Tearing us apart:' Cafe owners evicted for failing to pay April rent

'We’re just a little mom-and-pop operation. We had great customers and were getting busy,' laments owner of Port McNicoll eatery

Port Cafe owners Shawn Haines and Linda Nielsen received a phone call no small business ever wants to hear.

"Another tenant in the building told us we better get over there," Haines says.

Upon arrival, they discovered a bailiff had seized their business and a locksmith was in the process of changing the locks on their small restaurant in Port McNicoll. A notice was posted Monday morning (the only day of the week they're closed), which outlined that they were being evicted by their landlord since they were 15 days late with their rent.

"It's tearing us apart. We're constantly fighting and haven't slept since Monday," Haines says. “We’re just a little mom-and-pop operation. We had great customers and were getting busy. We weren’t a big space; we could sit 32 people.”

Before the eviction occurred, however, Haines says there had been a number of issues between them and their landlord, Shoreline Property Management, including what he describes as an extremely faulty hot-water tank. When there was a hot-water-tank leak in a tenant's apartment hooked up to Port Cafe's gas for months, Haines said it caused their bill to go up to 3,600$ with Shoreline offering a $24.50 credit.

Haines says they were actually withholding the April rent of $950, plus HST, since they were under the understanding that Shoreline would help them out with the water bill.

“Unfortunately, we were having issues with (Shoreline),” Haines says. “Because this is a leased space, any maintenance had to go through the property management company.”

Besides the leaky water-tank issue, Haines says there were also mould issues that he feels weren’t being properly addressed along with a disruptive building tenant who would drink to excess and yell obscenities at their customers.

"We were dealing with the health unit for mould control," Haines says. “They (Shoreline) were supposed to provide snow removal and we ended up doing it ourselves."

Haines says they weren't given any notice that Shoreline planned to evict them.

"A lot of people are saying that they think Shoreline has other plans for the place," Haines says.

On its website, Shoreline notes that it boasts a portfolio of more than 1,000 units, totalling over $200 million in company investment. Besides Midland, it also operates offices in Durham and Kingston.

Simcoe County property manager Karey Cartwright declined to discuss the Port Cafe situation, but said she would pass along a request for comment to company CEO Chris Graham. However, comments weren’t received by the time of publication.

As for the Port Cafe, Haines says the company has given them a four-hour window Tuesday to go and retrieve their personal items and restaurant equipment from the five-unit building on Talbot Street.

And on the Port Cafe Facebook page, Haines and Neilsen took the time to thank “the best customers, friends and family” as well as appreciation for the “kind words and heartfelt messages” they have received since announcing the closure.

“Just wanna say as the chef at Port Cafe, (I) am so sorry for letting everyone down,” Haines wrote. “As everyone heard, we had no choice but to close and in the results of that I've failed and let everyone down. Sorry I couldn't keep it up.”


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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country’s most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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