el basha, the falafel shop cum Annex institution, is no more.The family-run Lebanese restaurant that fed Michael Ondaatje while he penned In The Skin Of A Lion has been forced to close its doors despite a petition signed by nearly 1,000 people imploring the building's owners to give proprietor Billy Boutros a three-month extension on his lease.
Gone is the plexiglass box, a shrine containing early copies of Ondaatje's book and Stuart McLean's Stories From The Vinyl Cafe, that used to sit in a corner of the restaurant on Bloor west of Spadina.
Now, only a chilly letter from the lawyer for the owner, 1465151 Ontario Limited, advising Boutros of his termination, hangs in the window.
"It's business," says Lawrence Freedman, a local dentist who's acting for the new owners. Boutros, who's trying to find another location, wonders why some accommodation couldn't be reached with the landlord. "We've been here for 19 years," he says.
Freedman says extending Boutros's lease would have put renovations behind schedule.
He says the owners are doing the neighbourhood a favour by renovating a building that's in terrible shape. A Starbucks on the ground floor is not entirely out of the question.