After momentarily overwrought worrying from concerned citizens, it turns out Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal borough will protect existing businesses under its proposed ban on wood-fired ovens.
According to the Montreal Gazette, the borough will ban new restaurants from burning wood or charcoal to cook food. However, all existing businesses will be left untouched for the foreseeable future — that means bagel stores that fall within the borough, like St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel, as well as popular Portuguese chicken rotisseries such as Romados and Ma Poule Mouillée.
It was actually relatively clear all along that the administration, headed by Projet Montréal, was never going to swoop in and order long-standing, prominent businesses to change their methods or face the consequences. Comments from one councillor in the Gazette piece do indicate that the borough is interested in trying to transition places from wood or charcoal towards gas cooking, but it seems that there’s no requirement for a transition being proposed at this stage.
The Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough already passed a ban a few weeks ago but put a similar measure in for the very small number of businesses using wood-fired ovens within its borders. That didn’t stop some media outlets confusingly soliciting complaints from restaurants who faced no changes. (Oddly enough, the ban may give such businesses a competitive edge, given that any newcomer would not be able to advertise itself as wood-fired, a possible selling point in terms of flavour and general aesthetics.)
On top of that, the City of Montreal (via mayor Valérie Plante) also ruled out a citywide ban on wood-fired ovens, and at this stage, no other boroughs have any bans in the works.
All this didn’t stop pieces like the Globe and Mail’s “The death of the Montreal bagel?” , which bizarrely claimed that “St-Viateur Bagel is hanging in there beside a DavidsTea and across from a Lululemon”, as if the heavily-touristed store is somehow struggling.
The rationale for the ban is air quality — as the Gazette notes, Montreal has known for a long time that such businesses put out particle pollution to the point where they exceed existing bylaws. Contrary to some internet commenters, the bans are not aimed at targeting carbon emissions or climate change — they’re about air quality on a local level; the stuff Montrealers breathe in. Wood-fired heating is already banned in Montreal homes (with small exceptions), so the new rules hold businesses to similar standards to those of residents.
In any case, some institutions like St-Viateur Bagel have been working towards implementing high-tech filters to keep their pollution down — but likely not all wood- and charcoal-burning restaurants have taken the same steps.