Don't feel sorry for chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard. The proprietor of Le Mousso, the dynamic new Centre-Sud restaurant, posted a widely shared rant on Facebook yesterday after he was slapped by police with a second $1,875 fine in five months for excessively loud music. "Le Mousso has been full to capacity since November," the restaurateur, who has a bar permit for his establishment, remarked today. "We're doing well. The last thing I want is to give the impression that I'm whining. That's not the case at all. This is about the fact that one person can disrupt a business to the tune of close to $2,000 with a simple phone call to police. The minimum fine for a noise ordinance violation in the Plateau is $600. In Ville-Marie borough it's $1,875. And the next time this happens my fine will double to close to $4,000. It's meant to be a deterrent, but I think it's unfair."
Mousseau-Rivard was first fined last November when a private event on a Sunday afternoon got a little too noisy for his neighbour's taste. "It was three o'clock in the afternoon. I just spent a ridiculous amount of money to open a restaurant, and now this happens. They could have at least given us a warning first," the chef said at the time. Mousseau-Rivard claimed he spent close to $20,000 to soundproof his restaurant, and even offered to hire Moog Audio to do an acoustic analysis of the neighbour's apartment to determine what technical adjustments, if any, could be made to solve the problem. The offer was apparently rebuffed.
"This person purchased a condo on Ontario close to Amherst, a busy street, and wants complete peace and quiet. I'm not unsympathetic, but I can't very well not play any music in my restaurant. And it's not even the volume of the music that's the problem. It's the bass. This past Wednesday I decided to play A Tribe Called Quest all night, in tribute to Phife Dawg, who had died that day. It wasn't particularly loud. But the bass seeps through to my neighbour's bathroom and kitchen."
Mousseau-Rivard added that in between the two fines, the police have come by, prompted by calls from the neighbour, and simply issued warnings. But on this most recent occasion, they determined that the bass level warranted a fine. "I'm trying to make peace with my neighbour in good faith. But he's basically told the police that for him, the only resolution is for me not to play music at all. This guy has a beef with me, and he doesn't want the restaurant to succeed." The looming threat of additional fines will be cause for even more concern next month when Mousseau-Rivard opens Le Mousso six days a week (the restaurant is currently open four days a week), and extends his kitchen hours until 1 a.m. "Our tasting menu format will stay the same, but after 10 p.m. we'll shift to a different vibe for the late night crowd. We're targeting industry people, artists, theatre people. It's going to be fun, but this needs to get resolved."
David Chano, who works as a manager at Buonanotte, was at Le Mousso on the night in question. "There was definitely nothing inappropriate about the sound level. If anything the sound of the buzzing room was louder than the background music. Are we going to start nailing businesses because patrons are speaking too loud?"
Le Mousso has received universal praise from food critics since opening last October. Lesley Chesterman wrote that the restaurant was one of the best of 2015. "I exited Le Mousso elated, not only because my dinner was so stimulating but because I was just so thrilled to be eating seriously sophisticated food in Montreal again," the Gazette critic raved. Similarly, in La Presse, Marie-Claude Lortie praised Mousseau-Rivard's cuisine as delicious, and magnificent to look at. Le Mousso was also voted Montreal's hottest restaurant last year by Eater's readers.
Update, April 6, 2016: A strange footnote to Le Mousso's saga. Last Friday, a group of 14 people cancelled a reservation at the restaurant at the last minute. Mousseau-Rivard elaborated on Facebook, translated here: "The person very calmly replied that they had decided to boycott us because some people in the group were police officers. Fortunately for us, we filled their places in a few minutes." In response to a commenter, the restaurateur added that "the only stupid people are the officers who made the decision to boycott us. It's a fine example of the closed and defensive attitude of the Montreal police."