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Joe Beef’s David McMillan Targets Law Preventing Restaurants From Selling Wine Without Food

Montreal restaurants like Satay Brothers, Elena, and Le Mousso have already joined in the act of civil disobedience

Joe Beef/Facebook

This morning, David McMillan, the co-owner of Joe Beef, Liverpool House, and other famed Montreal restaurants, urged fellow restaurateurs across the province to participate in “an act of civil disobedience” that he hopes will send a message to the Legault administration: Open restaurant cellars.

McMillan is asking restaurant owners to post photos of them selling a bottle of wine without food on social media, using the hashtag #openourcellars (or #ouvreznoscaves in French). Under existing regulations, Quebec dining establishments are forbidden from selling alcohol without a meal, and doing so could compromise their liquor licence.

The call to protest the CAQ’s upholding of longstanding liquor permit regulations — even during these uniquely catastrophic times — comes on the heels of an op-ed written by McMillan and published yesterday in the Montreal Gazette. In it, he pleads with the provincial government to allow restaurants to operate in “caviste mode” — i.e., to sell their inventory of wine and alcohol to the public without having to also sell food. (Worth noting: Restaurants must already purchase their wine and alcohol through the province’s government-owned liquor monopoly, the SAQ.)

“I cannot understand how and why it has come down to me writing this message at the beginning of the holiday season. This obvious and easy solution is at least eight months overdue,” McMillan wrote in the op-ed. “Mr. Legault: Unlock our cellar doors and don’t make lawbreakers out of us.”

Within three hours of launching the coordinated act of civil disobedience on social media, McMillan was joined by Saint-Henri pizzeria Elena, Mile-Ex’s Marconi, Singaporean street food purveyor Satay Brothers, Hochelaga pizza joint Heirloom, Little Italy wine bar Vin Mon Lapin, chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard’s Ontario Street restaurant Le Mousso, and several others off the island.