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Repairs to Hélène de Champlain building force eatery to shut Restaurant's owner plans to close it down when lease expires at end of 2009 ALAN HUSTAK, The Gazette Published: 8 hours ago The building that houses the Hélène de Champlain restaurant on Île Ste. Hélène needs massive repairs, and the restaurant will close for good in 16 months when its lease expires. Pierre Marcotte, the French- language television personality who has leased the red sandstone building from the city since 1983, says the property needs between $3 million and $5 million in repairs. "We have no choice but to close," he said. "The city has decided not to renew its lease after 2009 in order to undertake the repairs. That could take a year or more to complete. The electrical and heating systems are outdated, and major repairs to the building itself are necessary." Initially meant to be a sports pavilion, the island chalet was built during the Depression as a Quebec government make-work project. It was designed by Émile Daoust to resemble a Norman château, and the grounds were landscaped by Frederick Todd. It was turned over to the city in 1942 and in 1955 became a municipal restaurant, but didn't get a liquor licence until 1960. In 1966, Mayor Jean Drapeau had the building redone as the official residence for Expo 67's Commissioner-General, Pierre Dupuy. It also had a hall of honour next to the main dining room that was used by Drapeau as a reception centre for visiting dignitaries and heads of state. The reception for French President Charles de Gaulle was held in the chalet after he delivered his controversial "Vive le Québec libre" speech. Even though the restaurant proved to be a money-loser, Drapeau kept its five dining rooms open until 1977, when they were closed because of a labour dispute. They reopened in 1981. Marcotte said he does not plan to renew his lease, and no one is certain what will happen to the building once the repair work is done. In the past, there has been talk of converting the site into a hotel for high rollers at the Montreal Casino. [email protected] thegazette.canwest.com