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Yes, You Still Have to Buy Food If You’re Drinking at a Quebec Restaurant

A key law has passed, but nothing has changed yet


Despite a law being passed to change the rules, it seems that nobody actually knows when restaurants in Quebec will be allowed to serve alcohol to customers without requiring them to order food.

Back in June, the Quebec government passed a law that mostly loosened alcohol laws in the province — and a key part of it was eliminating the “no drinking without eating” rule that has bothered many restaurants in the province. Plenty of other new rules tied to the law (for example, that dépanneurs can sell alcohol earlier in the day) have already come into effect, but the changes for restaurants seem to be languishing.

A representative for Quebec’s Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux told Eater that there is no set date for the new rule to come into effect. When pressed for any details whatsoever — whether the rule will remain in place for weeks, or months, or perhaps over a year — the representative was unable to give any indication at all, reiterating that “there is no set date yet”.

The Régie is the government department tasked with managing and enforcing all laws around alcohol; no other government ministry seems to have insight into the status of the rule.

A representative for Quebec’s restaurant association, the ARQ, told Eater that they also had no idea when the rules might change.

Of course, when new laws are passed, they don’t always come into effect immediately — for example, although the Canadian government passed laws to legalize marijuana, there’s about a three month wait before Canadians can go and legally buy it and smoke it.

But to have no timeframe whatsoever is less common, and obviously frustrating for restaurant owners who excitedly thought new laws might have been in place sometime over the summer to draw in 5 à 7 crowds.

There is one possible answer to the mystery: another part of the law is that restaurant permit holders would need to undergo a short course in the responsible service of alcohol. Presumably, this would be required before they are allowed to serve booze on its own — and the government may be working on developing that program before any change to the status quo can happen. However, the status of that program is also unknown.

So, restaurants: you’d better keep telling customers to order meals before they take even a sip of beer, and customers — please don’t get mad at the restaurants for asking.