Iqaluit abuzz with Kamotiq sale rumours

“Nothing’s been finalized,” restaurant manager says

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The Kamotiq Inn, an Iqaluit landmark that has attracted more than its share of controversy over the past 20 years, is once again the talk of the town.

For months, Iqaluit has been abuzz with speculation about the future of the shabby, igloo-shaped restaurant and bar, which is situated at the hottest intersection in town.

Developer Mike Mrdjenovich, the president of Nova Builders, is constructing the Nova Centre, a four-storey hotel and convention centre, across the street from Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly.

Rumours circulated last weekend Mrdjenovich had bought the Kamotiq Inn.

Brian Czar, who manages the Kamotiq for absentee owners Marcel and Lori Mahé, says he’s asked repeatedly about rumours that the property has been sold, but has no idea whether there’s any truth to the scuttlebutt.

The building has been on the market for several months, but Czar’s not aware of any buyers.

“Nothing’s been finalized.”

The Mahés declined to be interviewed this week, and Mrdjenovich did not return phone calls.

The Kamotiq has had more than its share of problems, most recently a series of break-ins over the Christmas holiday.

One of the break-ins was during New Years’ Eve day when a quantity of liquor was stolen hours before a huge New Year’s Eve bash at the restaurant. Police have made an arrest, Czar said. “We were told they caught the gentleman.”

In November, a man accused of committing a sexual assault in a washroom of the Kamotiq Inn was tried. During the trial, a witness told the court she entered a washroom at the Kamotiq and saw a man and woman having sexual intercourse. The man was eventually acquitted of sexual assault.

The restaurant’s liquor license was suspended by Nunavut’s liquor licencing board for 45 days last fall.

Dave Wilman, the liquor board chair, said the restaurant hadn’t complied with a 2005 ruling after the restaurant was fined for liquor violations. The ruling ordered the establishment to train its servers to not over-serve alcohol.

There’s more.

In April of 2002, fearing the Kamotiq Inn was a safety hazard, Nunavut’s fire marshal shut the restaurant’s doors.

The restaurant had a long list of violations and a history of ignoring them.

The restaurant wasn’t allowed to open until its owner fixed the problems, which date back to 1999 when the Iqaluit fire department found a handful of fire hazards. It warned the restaurant to fix the problems.

Again in 2000, the fire department found hazards in the restaurant and threatened the restaurant’s owners with a court order to do the necessary repairs, but being so close to Christmas and with restaurants gearing up for the extra 1,000 people coming to town for the Arctic Winter Games, Pickett decided it wasn’t the best time to close the restaurant.

He officially ordered the restaurant to close on April 13 of that year.

In Feb. 2004, the board refused to renew the Kamotiq’s interim liquor licence and last March, the board cancelled the licence.

But Mahé appealed to the Nunavut Court of Justice, which ruled last August the liquor board failed to allow Mahé and his wife Lore sufficient time to properly defend themselves.

A judge ordered the board to hear the Kamotiq Inn’s concerns. He also ordered the Nunavut Department of Justice to pay $1,000 toward the Mahé’s court costs.

The also noted they had received repeated warnings from the fire marshal’s office since 1998 and a letter from the licencing board referred to the restaurant’s “persistent failure” to carry out orders made by the fire marshal.

After the court decision, the Fire Marshal said the Kamotiq complied with his office’s orders and the building was up to code.

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