A proposal by Montreal city hall to move bar and restaurant terrasses to the middle of Place Jacques-Cartier for the city's 375th anniversary in 2017 will hurt business, say area merchants. Moreover, the plan, a nod to Barcelona's La Rambla artery, could endanger service staff obligated to navigate heavy summer traffic on the popular square. The controversial, and theoretical, measure, will be tabled before a public consultation in September but immediately drew the ire of restaurateurs, some of whom were all too happy to discuss the plan's flaws with the Montreal Gazette.
Jean-Marc Lavoie, director of restaurant Jardin Nelson, said he fears the city will fail to install the terrasses at the start of the tourist season in April, furniture will likely be damaged, all the terrasses in the centre will look alike, and later, the city will have difficulty storing the patios and equipment.
Add that to the risk of accidents for waiters if the roads are reopened on both sides to traffic.
"Imagine a server with a serving tray, on a Saturday night when there are fireworks, trying to cross a mob of people to the terrasse," Lavoie said. Restaurants that do have detached terrasses usually don’t offer the full menu, he said.
The fact that the full cost of the terrasse displacement will be assumed by the city (an architecture firm has been awarded a $94,000 contract) is hardly an incentive to cooperate, it seems. "It doesn’t make sense that you would have a study like this, to tell people ‘we’re going to move your terrasse’ without making the effort to consult them," Lavoie said. If the project moves forward, the Jardin Nelson principal may take legal steps to stop it. Another restaurant owner, Karim Filali, of La Marée, thinks the city's assertion that the new terrasse plan will “liberate the facades of restaurants” is “ridiculous.”