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Quebec to Allow More Restaurants to Serve Booze Without Food This Summer

An overhaul of the restaurant permit rules

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard, whose Liberals are behind the proposed law changes
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Quebec’s provincial government is overhauling the rules governing restaurant permits, meaning it’s going to be easier for restaurants to serve booze to guests.

CBC (among others) reports that Bill 170, which the Quebec Liberals are planning to pass, will allow restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks without food, and that the new rules should be in place by this summer.

The current laws for restaurants date back to Maurice Duplessis, the staunchly Catholic premier who governed Quebec until the late 1950s. A key part of those rules is that any establishment with a restaurant permit must serve food with alcohol drinks, while only venues with bar permits can serve alcohol on its own (bar permits are generally much harder to acquire).

It’s a rule that causes consternation for both customers and restaurateurs — diners who aren’t familiar with the liquor laws (especially visitors) are sometimes vexed by restaurants apparently “pushing” them to order food, even though it’s a legal requirement. Meanwhile, some restaurants can get into risky territory with customers who order drinks and then try to avoid ordering food. Other establishments bend the rules, offering items like small bowls of olives or nuts to fulfill the “food” requirement, even though common wisdom is that the food accompanying the alcohol should be more substantial.

The CBC story notes that the rule change won’t exactly convert restaurants into de facto bars — they will still be required to have an operational kitchen as long as booze is being served, and restaurant permit holders will be required to undergo responsible alcohol service training.

According to the Gazette, the law (if passed) will also loosen up other rules — parents and children will be allowed on bar terrasses until 11 p.m. (current laws don’t allow them to stay beyond 8 p.m.). Bars will also benefit: they’ll be allowed to make batch cocktails (for example, sangria). At present, mixed drinks must be made to order and cannot be prepared in advance. Grocery stores and dépanneurs will also be allowed to sell alcohol one hour earlier, starting at 7 a.m.

Unsurprisingly, Quebec’s restaurant association had a positive reaction to the Liberal government’s proposed changes, while pro-moderation organization Educ’alcool dubbed parts of the laws “irresponsible”.

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