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Montreal Restaurants React to Coronavirus and New Government Restrictions

Many establishments are bracing for turbulent times

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This article may be updated as Montreal and Quebec’s response to COVID-19 develops. If you have news to share about Montreal-area restaurants or bars reacting to the novel coronavirus, please email them to montreal@eater.com


On Thursday, both the City of Montreal and the Quebec government announced a host of new steps to prevent against the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Mayor Valérie Plante announced that the city will close most public facilities like libraries and sport centres, and is cancelling or postponing upcoming public events, including next Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. City workers will be encouraged to work from home (where possible), although all STM transit services will operate as normal. At the provincial level, premier Francois Legault’s government has banned any indoor gatherings of more than 250 people; many school boards across the province have cancelled classes.

These new measures don’t directly prevent restaurants, bars, and other businesses from opening in most cases. There are almost no restaurants in the greater Montreal area with a capacity of more than 250, and with many people engaging in social distancing measures and generally staying at home, it’s unlikely that any large venues would draw 250-plus customers at any one time. (One exception is food halls and food courts, many of which appear to be staying open.)

However, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are still preparing for an array of knock-on effects from these measures — here’s a rundown of some of those reactions.

Large venues

Perhaps surprisingly, the few food and beverage establishments that can fit more than 250 people have not made any public announcements relating to the novel coronavirus. Out of three new food halls in the city, Le Central, Time Out Market, and Le Cathcart — all of which are regularly fairly crowded. Le Cathcart, inside Place Ville-Marie, cancelled a 5 à 7 event on Thursday night, and announced on its Instagram story that it is still accepting customers, but indicated that it would try to prevent large crowds from gathering.

Meanwhile, a representative for Time Out Market gave a statement to Eater noting that the food hall was taking extra precautions, including reducing the number of seats at its long communal tables,

“This gives everyone more space and provides more distance amongst guests while enjoying our curation of the best of the city,” the statement read.

Of course, there are plenty of other food courts around town that have large capacities, and they all appear to be open, just like the malls that house them. (For the record, malls around the city have also generally not announced any changes to the operations at present.)

Support restaurants without eating out

Most restaurants operate on very slim profit margins, so an unexpected mass downturn in business — which is now more or less guaranteed to happen — could make it very difficult for some establishments to stay in business (especially with the timing of the COVID-19 outbreak, right when restaurant business would usually be starting to pick up after the usual winter lull).

Some restaurants in Montreal are suggesting one idea to mitigate this: buy restaurant gift cards now, and use them when the COVID-19 situation clears up. While this doesn’t help staff who may lose shifts and income immediately, it could help to ensure that their jobs are there in future.

NDG’s Monkland Tavern suggested this on social media, and the owner of former doughnut café Chez Boris also advocated for this as a way to support businesses, also suggesting that if you’re going out to eat or drink, it might be nice to tip a little extra.

Chers amis/Dear friends: First, wash your damn hands // se laver les mains. Second, in times like this please support...

Posted by Chez Boris on Thursday, March 12, 2020

Additional cleaning and hygiene measures

While restaurants are naturally subject to provincial health codes that ensure a generally good standard of cleanliness, some establishments are voluntarily going a step further. For example, Old Montreal restaurant Jellyfish announced that it would be extra vigilant, cleaning and sanitizing its dining room more intensively to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmissions, while also likely putting customers at ease.

Jellyfish was not the only restaurant making such an announcement — St-Henri’s Cordova announced additional cleaning measures, and has removed its self-serve stations for milk and water. It is also not accepting reusable cups from customers. A small handful of other restaurants — including sushi chainlet Ryú, supper club the Farsides, and Italian venue Fiorellino — also reiterated a general commitment to extra precautions, mostly announcing this via Instagram story.

View this post on Instagram

In line with the increasing need for precautionary measures with COVID-19, we have made a few adjustments to ensure the safety of our staff, clients, and community. We’re a small space that accommodates a large volume of customers daily, and we will be even more persistent in wiping down high contact surfaces such as door handles, faucet handles, and our debit/credit pinpad constantly. Our self-service stations for milk/cream and bottles of water will be removed indefinitely, in the meantime our staff will be more than happy to accommodate any preferences for your order behind the bar. We’ll also temporarily not be serving coffee or tea in any travel mugs or containers brought from home. For any of our customers trying to keep visits brief, you can make your coffee visits quicker if you prefer by texting your order ahead to 514 647 4338. Thank you for your understanding and co-operation! Love, Cordova En vue de la montée du besoin de mesures préventives face au COVID-19, nous nous devons de faire quelques changements afin d’assurer la sécurité de nos employés, nos clients ainsi que de notre communauté. Nous sommes un petit espace qui reçoit chaque jour une grande quantité de clients, nous serons encore plus assidus à désinfecter les surfaces souvent en contact telles que les poignées de portes, les robinets et les terminaux débit/crédit. Jusqu’à nouvel ordre, le lait, la crème et l’eau ne seront plus en libre service, ils vous seront distribués par le personnel à la demande. Malheureusement, nous ne remplirons plus les tasses et bouteilles réutilisables de l’extérieur. Pour tout client qui désire écourter ses visites nous pouvons prendre votre commande par texto au 514 647 4338. Merci pour votre compréhension et coopération! Love, Cordova

A post shared by Cordova Coffee & Cocktails (@cordova.st.henri) on

Take-out instead of dining in

St-Henri taqueria Grumman78 took a slightly different approach, announcing that it is offering take-out options to customers, and even selling to-go wine to anyone interested. A similar approach has been adopted by restaurants in other cities, to alleviate customer concerns about transmission from other people across a dining room, while also giving the business an alternative channel for customers, possibly preventing them from having to cut staff shifts.

Chez Grumman78, nous avons pris de mesures d’assainissement supplémentaires dans notre salle à manger pour assurer la...

Posted by Grumman78 on Friday, March 13, 2020

Taking a similar approach is Mile End non-profit restaurant Robin des Bois, which is offering prepared baskets that include daal, duck confit, cookies, and a roll of toilet paper (yes, really).

Nous vous préparons en ce moment des paniers de nourriture en livraison. Exemple : 2 litres de soupe dahl, des cuisses...

Posted by Robin Des Bois on Friday, March 13, 2020

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