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Dangerous Dan’s to close in May, owner says gentrification to blame

Last Updated Feb 3, 2017 at 9:54 am EDT

Hiked up on a stool at the doorway of Dangerous Dan’s Diner, owner James McKinnon greats each one of his customers, something he’s done for the last 18 years.

But this daily routine will soon become a thing of the past, as the diner located on Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue since 1999, is slated to close in May.

“From a business point of view, I didn’t think we could make it,” McKinnon said.

The decision to close the doors to one of the city’s most famous burger joints came down to money. McKinnon has been trying to renegotiate his lease for months with his new landlord Pizza Nova. He told CityNews the landlord wanted an 80 per cent increase in rent, and asked him to make repairs to the restaurant.

“They offered me a lease, I just didn’t think I could make money with what they’re asking, and they didn’t like my offer,” McKinnon explained.

Pizza Nova, who’s owned the building for nearly two years, wouldn’t confirm the terms of that lease agreement, but the company’s president, Domenic Primucci, sent the following statement to CityNews:

“We were very surprised and sorry to learn about this news through the media today. Pizza Nova has owned the building since 2015 and considers Dangerous Dan’s a valued tenant. We’ve been negotiating the renewal of his lease in good faith, and in line with market rates, as we always do with our tenants. The term of his lease runs until May. As we were only made aware of the news through media today, we don’t have any plans for the space at this time.”

While McKinnon attributes the gentrification in his neighbourhood for raising his property value, he said it’s also the reason he’s closing the doors to his restaurant.

“I own my house, I bought it in ’97, that’s why I bought the restaurant down here because I knew the neighbourhood had potential,” he said. “The negative is, I can’t afford my rent, that’s why I’m leaving.”

The diner’s closure is just one of many businesses in this intersection alone that’s closed its doors in recent years. Just across the street, where the infamous Jilly’s strip club was housed, construction is underway to turn the historic site into a hotel opening this spring. The gentlemen’s club closed after the building was bought out by new owners.

After a 24-year-run, Real Jerk called it quits in 2012, saying they were forced out by the landlords. Sibin Pub moved into that space, but closed in November 2016, saying it was due to “unreasonable and many rent increases.”

CityNews asked McKinnon if he had considered moving or selling his restaurant, but he said that wouldn’t make sense for him.

“I could’ve sold the name or concept,” McKinnon explained. “But for the small amount of money I’d get, it wouldn’t be worth it, because I named it after my grandpa, so I’d rather keep it.”

The diner will be serving up its last burgers on May 28.