Metro London/John Matisz Miljan Karac, owner of Kantina Restaurant, is withdrawing from Londonlicious because of the addition of a chain restaurant to the food festival.

The addition of a chain restaurant to Londonlicious has led one independent local eatery to withdraw from the annual food festival.

Kantina Restaurant, a downtown spot serving mostly eastern European dishes, has pulled out of the food festival because its owner feels the event’s core vision has been tarnished.

The festival, which runs from Jan. 17 to Feb. 3, has traditionally been promoted as a hyper-local experience. However, upon hearing it added Moxie’s — a bar and grill founded in Calgary and prominent across Canada — to its restaurant list, Kantina quit, saying Londonlicious was headed in the wrong direction.

“We’re stepping down because of the involvement of the chain restaurants,” said Miljan Karac, Kantina’s owner.

Throughout the winter culinary event approximately 35 locally owned and managed restaurants — ranging from cultural hub Budapest to upscale Crave — offer the public the opportunity to dine at local restaurants featuring fixed price menus. This allows restaurant-goers to enjoy a three-course meal for $20 to $30, while also celebrating the local culinary scene.

Two of Moxie’s 63 Canadian restaurants are located in Forest City and because it employs several Londoners, Londonlicious organizer Andy Wilson says, the casual restaurant meets the event’s entrance criteria.

“Moxie’s contacted me, and they had a great argument,” Wilson said. “And I told them it would be a trial run. I told them, ‘We’ll see how the community reacts, how the other restaurants react to it.’”

There was a lengthy message posted on Kantina’s Facebook page on Monday. It outlines the rationale behind the withdrawal, and says Londonlicious is “selling out.”

“While we understand this is only one restaurant, it sets precedent with which we are not at all comfortable,” reads the post.

Wilson, who admits he weighed the pros and cons of the situation before ultimately coming to a decision, argues the inclusion of Moxie’s is an experiment. Nothing is set in stone for next year’s lineup.

“I really don’t see the addition of Moxie’s taking away from the other restaurants,” he added.

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