After being ordered to close for a month and subject to a burdensome set of legal restrictions from a government regulator, L’Gros Luxe has permanently closed its all-vegetarian location on St-Andre Street, L’Gros Luxe 100% Végé.
There’s quite some backstory to this: the cheap eats chain (which now has seven locations around Quebec) faced repeated noise complaints from a small number of neighbours around its St-Andre Street location on the Plateau. In 2016, the government body that deals with restaurants, the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, heard the complaints and imposed a series of penalties on the restaurant: it would have to close its doors for 30 days, hire a door attendant, and be completely closed by 11 p.m. each night (with nobody inside after that time).
The 30-day closure was suspended until the Régie heard the case in full — but the Régie ultimately sided with the neighbours, allowing the month-long closure to happen. At that stage, owner Alex Bastide decided he was in an unwinnable situation, and closed the restaurant permanently.
“The person upstairs will always keep calling the Régie and the cops — calling the city about the noise from my air conditioning, she called the city for my garbage, she called the fire department — she has been there for 25 years and I realized that we will never win.”
“The financial loss is so high that it’s not worth it, it’s better to break our lease, pay the penalty and move on.”
He noted that one neighbour had been particularly diligent in making complaints against the restaurant, by keeping a calendar and routinely taking photos of the restaurant.
Bastide tells Eater that the requirements to close early already caused the restaurant to lose money: in 2017, it was caught out twice for having staff on the premises after 11 p.m. (many restaurants in the Plateau accept customers until that that) — by having to stop taking customers at 10 p.m., he estimated he had lost $250,000 in one year.
It’s rare for the Régie to impose such a strict penalty in any case — in the past, forced closures have been reserved mainly for bars with laundry lists of problems such as underage drinkers and violence on the premises.
But this isn’t the first time that noise complaints have effectively caused a venue to close — Plateau salle de spectacles Le Divan Orange is also set to close its doors this spring, partly after being hammered with fines after one couple living nearby phoned in copious noise complaints.
Bastide says that after the Régie’s decision regarding L’Gros Luxe, he’s worried that other restaurants could face big penalties for noise complaints stemming from just a few neighbours.
“My lawyer is very frustrated...this decision will stay in the books and the Régie will be able to use it [against] restaurant businesses in future.”
He added that his predicament offers a valuable lesson for anybody looking to open a restaurant in Montreal.
“You need to think about your location and go knock on some doors. I want everyone out there to avoid what I experienced. I was lucky to be able to turn Gros Luxe into a bigger project
Bastide says that he’s trying to accommodate staff who lost their jobs at other Gros Luxe locations, and that staff who didn’t want to stay on will be eligible for employment insurance.
The St-Andre location was where the comfort food chain first opened for business in 2014; after expanding, it was converted to an all-vegetarian concept in 2016. That vegetarian menu will now be available at other Gros Luxe outlets.