A Plateau-Mont-Royal councillor has put forth a proposal to create a new category of restaurant permit in the province of Quebec.
As a result, the Ministry of Public Safety, which oversees the powerful Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, will soon consider a motion to require new restaurants on predominantly residential streets to close at 11:00 p.m. between Sunday and Thursday and at 12:00 a.m. on weekends.
Christine Gosselin, the Plateau-Mont-Royal Borough Councillor for Jeanne-Mance district and Projet Montréal’s sanitary and cleanliness critic, spoke about her proposal today from Portland, Oregon.
"It would become a provincial law. The permit categories are very old and many don’t apply anymore. They have fine distinctions that we no longer have any use for, like a taverne or brasserie. It’s been rumoured for several years that the government was intent on modernizing permits. Now that the Liberals are in power I thought it would be a good idea to suggest to them that we look in this direction again. With respect to nightlife venues, I think it would be helpful if we had intermediary distinctions. This would reduce friction between businesses and their neighbours."
A restaurant that stays open past a certain hour effectively turns into a bar. It’s not suited to some residential areas.
"This motion asks the government to create restricted restaurant hours on residential streets, not on arteries [such as Saint-Laurent, Saint-Denis]. The motion will only apply to local and collector streets, save for Mont-Royal. A full restaurant with a full alcohol permit can cause friction on a residential street. It becomes unlivable to live on a residential street close to a very popular restaurant. It causes car traffic, milling about, smoking outside. If it’s open late and is popular it causes problems. A restaurant that stays open past a certain hour effectively turns into a bar. It’s not suited to some residential areas."
Christine Gosselin, Projet Montréal councillor
Gosselin went on to add that restaurants like Le Chien Fumant, Maison Publique and Le Quartier Général - popular restaurants on local, residential streets in the Plateau - have what is known as acquired rights and would not be affected if Quebec City adopts the proposal. The councillor also affirms that her motion to create a new "restaurant de quartier" category is not restrictive.
We don’t want neighbourhood restaurants to disappear. We want them to have a lower profile.
"If neighbours are unhappy with efforts to reduce noise and nuisances, residents can lobby the Régie to have permits removed. Where does that leave us? Well, after removal, this lighter permit can be applied for. Often when there is friction, in mediation residents say they can live with the restaurant if it closes earlier. We don’t want neighbourhood restaurants to disappear. We want them to have a lower profile. In some cases, they’re not a good fit. It is not meant in a prohibitive spirit. For example, there is a restaurant in the Plateau that recently had its liquor permit revoked for serving alcohol without food. The owners made some changes and applied to have it reinstated. If their case is rejected, under my proposal they can apply for this special designation."
The quagmire of a restaurant caught charging a customer for a glass of wine without food, however, is a separate matter. Gosselin stresses that her proposal is strictly an attempt to reduce conflict between businesses and residents.
"I would like for our government to acquire sophistication in its nightlife bureaucracy. It would be helpful to have categories that reflect our current consumption habits. Like for a tapas bar, for example."
But what of the persistent gripe from industry insiders that Montreal is overly regulated when it comes to bars and restaurants?
The grass is not always greener on the other side.
"I think we need to update the permit system but I also think we live in a very liberal city. I’m in Portland right now. When I arrived it was late at night and everything was closed. The grass is not always greener on the other side."