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Court Declares That One Montreal Borough Can Restrict Fast Food Restaurants

The restaurant lobby took a Montreal borough to court over an attempt to ban fast food chains, and lost

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Quebec’s Superior Court has determined that municipalities have the right to block fast food chains from opening in certain parts of their territory.

The court case stemmed from a policy that the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough attempted to implement in early 2016. The proposed rule would allow new fast food restaurants to open only in three parts of the borough — Plaza Côte-des-Neiges, and certain stretches of Décarie Boulevard and St-Jacques Street (existing fast food joints would not be affected). A particular goal was to keep fast food restaurants away from schools, due to research that suggests that students with schools close to fast food outlets consume it far more often than those who don’t.

The borough implemented the rule as part of a broader plan to encourage residents to adopt healthy lifestyles. Other policies in the same plan sought to allow for more farmers’ markets and community gardens.

“Fast food” was defined as restaurants with counter service only, and which made heavy use of disposable plates and utensils. While the rule didn’t explicitly block fast food chains, these two criteria would suggest that the aim was to target chains over small, local restaurants. (Independent restaurants could also easily side-step the restriction by using non-disposable flatware and silverware.)

National lobby group Restaurants Canada took the borough to court over the policy, claiming that municipalities are not entitled to “regulate consumption habits” of citizens through zoning or other means. However, a judge rejected that argument, declaring that boroughs and city councils do have the right to restrict certain types of businesses to certain geographic areas.

Restaurants Canada is contemplating appealing the decision.

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