Montreal’s Restaurants and Bars Will Close for 28 Days, Starting October 1
As of Thursday, October 1, all restaurants and bars in Montreal will be closed for 28 days — with the exception of takeout and delivery. This includes outdoor terrasses.
The news was shared yesterday evening at a news conference held by public health director Horacio Arruda, health and public safety minister Christian Dubé, and premier François Legault, who announced that as of midnight on October 1, the entire Montreal metropolitan area (including Laval and Longueuil) would be crossing into the “red” zone, the highest category in the province’s COVID-19 alert system.
Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches were also classified “red,” and must observe the same health measures, which include the closing of restaurants and bars, as well as movie theatres and performance halls, and restrictions on visiting the homes of others.
“We looked at the results over the weekend and the number of cases has gone up significantly,” the premier said. “The situation is critical and we must put in place new measure right now.”
On Sunday, 1,036 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the province, marking the highest daily uptick since May 6. On Monday, 750 new cases were reported.
The news comes hours after Quebec’s largest association of restaurants, the ARQ, released a statement pleading with the Quebec government not to close dining rooms once the province enters the “red” zone.
“The closure of dining rooms, even for just one or two weeks, would mean the permanent closure for many restaurants,” the statement reads. Montreal restaurants had already experienced a 50 percent decline in sales in July compared to the same month the previous year, the ARQ reports.
In the statement, the association shared that it had sent an email to Dubé proposing that restaurants be seen as part of the solution to managing the spread of the pandemic. “They offer customers an environment that is supervised, respectful of health directives and capable of being monitored by the police and public health, unlike when people gather at home,” the statement reads.
During Monday evening’s press event, Legault reassured restaurant and bar owners that the government is “working on a plan to help offset the financial losses that will be caused by the next 28 days.”
“I understand that these measures are difficult. I can put myself in the shoes of a restaurant or bar owner — I was myself once an entrepreneur — and it’s not funny what we are announcing today. I understand, but we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t to save lives and protect our healthcare system and our children,” Legault said.
Meanwhile, the support available to restaurant and bar workers remains uncertain. The Canada Emergency Relief Benefits (CERB) program, which as of last week paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people, expired over the weekend.
However, the federal government says it is working on fast-tracking a new bill creating benefits for those who are unable to work during the pandemic or ineligible to receive employment insurance (EI), for reasons such as failing to meet the minimum number of insurable hours.
Under Bill C-2, Canadians who are out of work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19 or whose income has dropped by at least 50 percent would receive $500 a week — the same as they would on CERB.
Data released by Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey in July reveals that at least 400,000 people who were previously employed in the foodservice sector are still out of work, even after dining rooms were opened back up.
In Montreal, the MRWRF continues to support workers in urgent need of financial aid, with increments of $50, $100, and $150 for things like groceries and medications. The fund is also open to undocumented workers.
The 28-day restaurant and bar shutdown was scheduled to begin on Thursday in order to give restaurants and other establishments enough time to adapt to takeout and delivery models, Legault said. Restaurants were swift in taking to social media to respond to the news.
Old Montreal Italian restaurant Un Po’ di Più posted on Instagram that as a result of the premier’s decision, it has “decided to open up our dining room tomorrow night (normally closed) and Wednesday night for two last services before this second quarantine.” Meanwhile, a post on the Instagram page of Saint-Henri’s Tuck Shop reads, “We have decided to get a jump start on our next pivot and will not be reopening our salle à manger this week.”
In terms of what will happen after these 28 days, Legault says he cannot make any promises that the closures won’t be extended, but he believes “it is possible in 28 days to change the trajectory of the virus.”