The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), Quebec’s French language watchdog, has issued a $1,500 fine to Bernard Street’s Deli 365 for displaying English-only signage in front of its establishment.
The kosher deli’s exterior signage was deemed a violation of article 58 of the Charte de la langue francaise (aka Bill 101), which stipulates that all signs on business facades, while permitted to feature text in another language, must feature French more prominently.
“This restaurant had public signage and commercial advertising in a language other than French only, that is, in this case, in English only,” the OQLF said in a press release on Thursday. Eater reached out to Deli 365 for comment on the incident.
In the statement, the OQLF also said it routinely contacts businesses about adhering to the charter, but when they don’t comply, they may be reported to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions. In this case, the agency tried to establish contact with the restaurant for as long as two years prior to the infraction being documented on May 22, 2019, an OQLF spokesperson confirmed. The restaurant was found guilty of the violation over a year later, on June 25, 2020.
Commenting on a Tweet posted by CTV News, which broke the news, a number of Montrealers took issue with the seeming incongruence of fining establishments at a time when many are struggling to survive. As one commentator put it, “Let’s kick restaurants while they’re down. Good job helping businesses during a pandemic, Quebec.”
Similar criticism was weighed at the provincial government (most notably by Montreal comedian Sugar Sammy) when it first announced in September that an additional $5 million dollars would be conferred to the OQLF, the biggest budget boost in the last 25 years. The additional funds would go toward creating 50 new positions, thereby doubling the number of inspectors enforcing Bill 101 among small- and medium-sized businesses in and around Montreal.
The Deli 365 fine announcement follows news yesterday that a new Villeray restaurant called Knuckles Cantine et Vins was targeted by a Bill 101 supporter, who painted the numbers largely on its new facade — further evidence that tensions surrounding the decades-long language war are rising in the city.
Update: October 29, 2020, 3:12 p.m.: This post has been updated to include information that the OQLF had tried to get in touch with the restaurant multiple times prior to noting the infraction on May 22, 2019. The headline has also been updated to clarify that October 15, 2020, was the day the announcement — not the fine — was made.