After almost 30 years in business, Talat Mian's popular St. John's restaurant International Flavours is no more — but that's not what she wanted to happen.
Mian had wanted to transfer ownership before retiring in Ontario to be around her grandchildren.
Instead she found herself locked out of her restaurant and in a rental dispute with her landlord, while her landlord tried to restart the business without her.
"It's unethical what happened to me. It's so stressful for me. I am moving and this stress [has been] added on me. I don't deserve this," she told CBC News.
Mian's landlord is Mike O'Dea, a well-known St. John's property owner who has been the subject of several complaints over the years.
A CBC News investigation in 2014 found O'Dea's company, Downtown Property Management, renting a row house on Long's Hill that City of St. John's inspectors deemed uninhabitable and at risk of caving in.
When reached for comment on Monday, O'Dea said he rented the International Flavours building to someone else because the person Mian wanted to transfer her business to had changed his mind.
That's not the version of events as Mian tells it.
Tough decisions, added stress
When the pandemic hit, Mian closed her restaurant and struck an arrangement for rent deferral with her landlord.
Then she got to thinking. She's in her mid-60s and thought trying to reopen with the pandemic on the go would put her at risk.
So Mian decided to retire and make the move to be around family.
She'd found a local businessman, Quidi Vidi Brewing Company owner Justin Fong, who would take over the restaurant and cover the $1,500 she owed in rent.
She hoped to have a deal done by July 1 but there were delays due to a death in the family.
Meanwhile, she said her landlord went and changed the locks at her restaurant when negotiations were still ongoing.
When he texted me exactly a copy of my food I was shocked. How anybody can legally do that in Newfoundland or anywhere in Canada. - Talat Mian
"And still my things are there. My personal things are there. My papers are there," she said. "Forget about the equipment. Forget about the spices."
Then last week Mian said she was contacted by customers who were excited that her restaurant was open again.
Mian had no idea what they were talking about.
According to Mian, O'Dea rented to someone else who then hired back some of her staff and started serving the same food.
A customer even texted her a picture.
"So when he texted me exactly a copy of my food I was shocked. How anybody can legally do that in Newfoundland or anywhere in Canada. This is injustice [that] happened to me," she said.
Mian said her lawyer has since sent a cease and desist letter to the new operators.
Over the weekend the International Flavours sign was removed from the building.
Speaking to CBC News, the new operator said he acknowledges the International Flavours sign should have come down sooner.
He also said his plan is to cook a completely different kind of food than what Mian was cooking.
"This is Pakistani. We are Ethiopian. It's completely different, right?," said Ibrahim Ayub.
Mian said her fight is not with Ayub. It's solely with O'Dea.
While O'Dea said he changed the locks after Fong changed his mind, Fong said he had every intention of taking the business over from Mian.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Fong wrote he had one condition — Mian "would teach myself and my partners how to make the food and also that we could sign a lease with the landlord. I got in contact with the landlord and we had a deal in place for July 1."
Fong wrote the delay in transfer was because Mian's brother passed away and they had to reschedule the training.
"When I contacted the landlord on July 2 saying that we had rescheduled our training, he told me that the building had been rented to someone else," said Fong's statement.
As for Mian's possessions inside the restaurant, O'Dea said he gave her back her Visa machine and modem following a request from Mian's lawyer.
O'Dea called Mian a "nice lady" and said "she can have whatever she wants back."
Mian has a ticket to fly to Ontario and start the next chapter of her life on Wednesday, leaving with a sour taste after spending so many years in her restaurant.