The owners of Little Italy restaurant Dinette Triple Crown are calling for Quebec premier Francois Legault to remove take-out and delivery restaurants from the province’s list of essential services.
In a detailed post on Facebook, co-owners Colin Perry and Nicole Turcotte argue that restaurants should be shut down (much like bars and most retail shops) in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In the post on Perry’s Facebook account, Perry and Turcotte say that in allowing restaurants to remain open (even if just for take-out) the government is sending mixed messages, and going against widespread calls for people to stay home where possible.
“Everyday we as citizens are being strongly encouraged to stay home. To isolate. To avoid unnecessary trips outside...Restaurant owners and employees, however, are not being encouraged to stay home.”
At the beginning of the week, restaurants in Quebec were ordered to close down their dining rooms, but at the same time Legault’s government placed restaurants on a list of essential services that are allowed to remain open, as long as they only offer food and beverages on a take-out or delivery basis.
Most businesses that serve recreational purposes — bars, clubs, gyms, and cinemas, for example — were ordered to close a full week earlier. Perry and Turcotte closed down Dinette Triple Crown on March 16, at the same time bars were ordered to closed and a number of Montreal restaurants voluntarily closed their doors in the name of public health.
While Triple Crown has offered take-out and delivery since it opened eight years ago, Triple Crown’s owners outlined a couple of key reasons for the decision to completely close. Firstly was concern for the restaurant’s staff, as some of them have pre-existing medical conditions that could put their health at major risk if they contracted COVID-19. Secondly was the fact that Triple Crown serves a relatively large number of tourists, so its owners were concerned that before they closed, a COVID-19 transmission was more likely to have occurred at their restaurant compared to a place serving mostly locals.
Speaking to Eater, Turcotte says she and Perry were concerned that the Facebook post could be seen as critical of restaurants that decided to remain open
“I understand why [other restaurants are] opening and trying to save what they’ve built.”
The bigger issue, says Turcotte, is that while Legault has put the entire province “on pause”, that pause hasn’t extended to restaurants’ financial obligations. She’s calling for the provincial and federal governments to defer payroll, GST, and QST taxes, and to put a moratorium on rent payments for businesses — especially given that land-owners have already been granted deferrals in their mortgage payments.
“I think the mortgage deferral [without any assistance for renters] was what was really a punch to the guts”.
It seems that in place of assisting restaurants, Legault’s government is simply encouraging them to switch to a take-out and delivery business model to try to stay afloat.
“It’s not a viable way to save our businesses, it’s going to slow the sinking of the ship but the ship is still going to sink.”
Turcotte acknowledges that there are people who may need prepared meals — for example, people who physically can’t cook at home, or perhaps first responders and essential workers working long shifts.
“I think that food is a human right; if they can’t cook meals they should have access to them. But restaurants sell food at an inflated price point because of all the costs involved in running a restaurant, [but] a $40 delivery per person, that is a luxury. Don’t tie solvency to the charitable act of feeding people who fight this.”
Ultimately, it comes down to one thing, Turcotte says — generally speaking, the need for people to stay inside is greater than the need for take-out, be it fried chicken or otherwise.
“What we’re being told is to stay at home. This is the way to help.”
Disclosure: Tim Forster was an employee of Dinette Triple Crown in 2014 and 2015.