In the wake of this article by food critic Lesley Chesterman on the state of the restaurant industry in Montreal, Massimo Lecas, a partner in Buonanotte and late sister restaurant Globe, gave his side of the story to CJAD radio host Tommy Schnurmacher today.
On the economy and the significance of Grand Prix weekend:
We have a serious economic problem and the restaurant industry suffers because of it. When tourism goes away and we have to rely on Montrealers there’s a big, big drop in sales.
[Formula One] is that one weekend where we get to act like a big city. Like a New York, London, Toronto or Paris. Where we can sell luxury items that you’re not able to sell regularly in Montreal.
On what Lecas considers inopportune persecution by city officials at Buonanotte and, previously, at Globe:
One thing I have to talk about is the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, the morality police, fire marshals, especially when the big events happen. That’s when they come. Saint-Laurent will have a drastic reduction in patio capacity next summer without an explanation. Some people are up to a 50 or 60 percent reduction, and this will happen on Formula One weekend.
On the price of success in the restaurant industry in Montreal:
There’s always something in Montreal. What we seem to overlook is a lot of these restaurants - the minute you’re busy, everyone comes to see whether your permits are in check, whether the bottles have stickers on, what is your capacity. It’s almost like, ‘Oh my God you’re doing well, what are they doing wrong?’
The Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux called Globe's owners in after the restaurant shut down. Lecas explains:
It was actually this morning at 9:30 a.m. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever attended. It lasted a total of five minutes. Some people were expecting to have a field day with us. We told them, we’re closed. The judge said, ‘Do you confirm that you’re closed?’ Yes, we said. ‘And you won’t open again?’ No, not without the alcohol permit that we were fighting for for 23 years.
On the nature of Globe's permit:
It’s an archaic law from 1921 that says that if we serve a beer we have to serve a full meal. But what is a full meal? Is it a hot dog? Is it a chicken wing? No. Nobody knows. We have a restaurant in Toronto and such laws don’t exist over there. It only exists in Quebec.
On the question: If you had a permit where you could just serve alcohol and customers could have a meal, a plate of fries or nothing, would Globe still be open?
One-hundred percent. One-hundred percent. That’s what our hearing today was all about. We kept telling them if you can’t accommodate us with the permit we’re going to relocate, we’re going to another address, where we’d have the right permit. They didn’t want that to happen either. They would not approve a relocation. In Montreal, down the street. We tried everything and that’s the way it went down.
On what mayor Denis Coderre can do to help restaurant owners:
Coderre should take over the major arteries. He should say to [Plateau borough mayor Luc] Ferrandez, you’re the borough mayor but Saint-Laurent, Saint-Denis are vital to Montreal and the city is going to manage them from now on.