Ben's Restaurant

December 15, 2006 10:46 ET

Ben's Restaurant is Closing

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 15, 2006) - Ben's Restaurant, a Montreal landmark for 98 years, is closing. However, the Kravitz family wishes to inform the public that it has reached an agreement with a Montreal museum to preserve Ben's unique memorabilia, which was shared by customers and three generations of Kravitz's alike.

"Through those doors passed the entire 20th century history of Montreal. The Kravitz's recognize this and are grateful for the unique experience," they said. "In appreciation, we have an agreement in principle with a well-known institution to preserve what we consider an essential part of Quebec's modern urban collective patrimony."

Details of the agreement are being ironed out and will be announced early in the New Year.

Unionized single-outlet deli cannot thrive

Ben's employees have been on strike since July 20th. The announcement of the closure comes further to a commitment made by the owners to government conciliator Denis Giasson. At a November 22 meeting, the family committed to informing the union and the strikers before Christmas of their plans for the future. Early next week, the owners' attorneys will notify the authorities that they have definitively ruled out reopening the restaurant and that it will remain closed.

After meeting the demands of their employees in three successive collective agreements, the owners came to the conclusion that a single-outlet deli cannot thrive in the economic environment of a unionized payroll. Since 1995, when Ben's personnel first joined the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, the owners have been trying to juggle the imperatives of collective bargaining with incompressible costs and reasonable meal prices. The result was a margin so thin that the restaurant could not go forward.

Staff longevity attests to owner fairness

Mrs Jean Kravitz, whom at age 83 owns and operates the restaurant, entertains no bitterness towards her former employees. She says there has always been mutual respect between management and staff. Even during the strike, she received well-wishes from employees when she fell and injured herself. She is three months into her convalescence, and customers and staff will be happy to hear that she is expected to make a full recovery.

The family insists that it always negotiated in good faith. They said their media silence during the strike is simply explained by their belief in not airing a conflict in public unless it serves a useful purpose for its resolution. They were sadden by their portrayal in some media and said that the longevity of employment of many of their workers should alone have attested to the fairness of the Kravitz family as employers.

Products still available, but through other retail outlets

The owners wish to reassure Ben's loyal customers that its famous smoked meat and other fine products will remain available through other retail outlets.

Ben's was opened by Ben Kravitz, an immigrant from Latvia, who came to Canada with nothing, yet endeavoured in popularizing a gastronomy typical of his homeland - smoked beef, pickled vegetables and fermented cabbage - prepared from his family recipes. The small business developed on and around that same street corner for all these years, first under the stewardship of the founder and his wife, Fanny, and then of their three sons, Irving, Al and Sollie, all of whom were well known to many generations of Montrealers.

Contact Information

  • Bernard Voyer
    Family friend
    Mobile: 514-995-5271