Though Mile-Ex concert venue Bar Le Ritz PDB has been temporarily closed for over seven months, its owners were still turned down by the city when requesting to delay a noise complaint court hearing to a later date — once able to revive operations. The complaint was lodged in 2019, long before the pandemic, and resulted in a hefty $985 fine.
Le Ritz co-owner Meyer Billurcu posted about the situation on Facebook earlier today, saying, “I asked for a delay of the trial until we could actually open our business again as we have $0.00 revenue coming in right now. Not only did the city deny my request for a delay, but they said the trial will proceed whether I show up or not.”
The municipal court hearing is scheduled for November 4, and Billurcu says there is a second outstanding fine of the same amount, with a court date slated for November 19. He has asked to postpone that one as well, but hasn’t heard back.
“It wasn’t even that we were asking to have the fine dropped. We were just saying, ‘Let’s do this when we’re at least operational.’ The city denied that and basically said, ‘The trial is happening next week whether you show up or not,’” Billurcu tells Eater. “You know, when you don’t show up, they just find you guilty. You’d think seven months of being closed would be punishment enough, but apparently not.” Eater has reached out to Montreal’s municipal court for comment.
The fines in question relate to complaints made in 2019 — not only before the pandemic, but also before the Ritz invested thousands of dollars in renovating its space to improve soundproofing. “We spent a lot of money out of pocket, quite frankly, it was money that we didn’t really have. But after doing the modifications, we haven’t had any complaints,” Billurcu says.
Le Ritz has been closed since March, when the first wave of COVID-19-related closures were enforced, and elected not to reopen in the summer because public health guidelines regarding social distance meant the business wouldn’t be viable. The venue has endured seven months without revenue, with assistance from the federal rent relief program, under which businesses (with landlord buy-in) need only pay 25 percent of their rent. “Twenty-five percent might not seem like a lot, but with an extra $2,000 in fines, when you don’t have any money coming in, it’s hard. We’re hanging on by a thread. I’m just looking for the city to have a little bit of sympathy.”
According to Billurcu, Le Ritz didn’t receive any noise complaints for its roughly first decade of existence. (When it opened in 2008, it was called Il Motore; the name change happened in 2014). “But in 2017, we started to get noise complaints. The neighbourhood is changing. It’s not what it once was, but we’ve tried as best we can to be respectful of our neighbours and have done anything we can.” That includes going door-to-door to hand out notices to open communication lines, as well as undertaking the modifications mentioned above to the space.
“At this point, I just want the city to throw out the case. I’m just tired. The pandemic is stressful enough. We have no revenue. I think we’ve been punished enough.”