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The door of Mile End icon Wilensky’s
Fannie Laurence

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Montreal Photographer Captures Eerie Photos of Shuttered Restaurants and Bars on the Plateau

Although it might be quiet inside closed institutions like Chez Doval and Wilensky’s, it doesn’t feel tranquil

It’s an eerie time to walk around the streets of Montreal: with social distancing rules preventing any social gatherings, and much of the city simply shut down while a global pandemic rolls on.

Then, there are the restaurants and bars — while some remain open as skeleton operations serving take-out and delivery meals, many more are simply deserted, with tables and chairs, bars and wine bottles gathering dust while waiting for permission to re-open (an all-clear that’s likely weeks or even months away).

This drew Montreal photographer Fannie Laurence, who decided to start taking her camera on a daily walk around the Plateau and Mile End (while observing proper social distancing rules, of course).

“I’ve never photographed Montreal,” says Laurence.

“I’ve always photographed outside the city and the country and I never pay attention [to my surroundings in Montreal]. So it’s a great discovery — I think for me it’s a great exercise, because my biggest fear is having to stay indoors.”

Sports bar Brasserie Laurier, in Mile End

Laurence says she didn’t go out with a list of specific places to photograph. Rather, she gravitated towards an array of establishments — some drew her because they are longtime local icons, some others were newer venues that Laurence had particular memories of.

“They’re places I love, and maybe have some kind of attachment to...and some that I’ve never been to because they have an attractive quality.”

Outside L’Express on St-Denis

“I worked in the restaurant business for many years, so when I first saw L’Express all dark, almost like it was abandoned, I thought about all the people I know who work in restaurants and how hard that can be because I know they do this paycheck to paycheck”

“[The gravity of the situation] kind of hit me — L’Express is such a landmark in Montreal, it’s such an important restaurant, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like that place.”

Inside L’Express

46-year-old Portuguese restaurant Chez Doval, on Marie-Anne and de Bullion

“I often to go dinner at Chez Doval with my brother — there’s always the waiter that doesn’t smile but gives good service, the was strange to see it empty and knowing the ovens are off.”

Café-bar Darling, on St-Laurent

Laurence says that one feeling she had from certain restaurants was that they looked like they had been hurriedly deserted, as if owners and staff had downed tools and fled suddenly.

“I had this feeling of ‘oh, we’ve gotta go now and we don’t know when we’ll come back’.”

Inside Majestique, on St-Laurent

Bar and music venue Snack ‘n’ Blues, in Mile End

“I wanted to go see [Mile End bar] Snack ’n’ Blues. It’s a place I’ve been to many times, and it’s such a legendary night every time. I wanted to see what it feels like being empty on a Friday night. Along with the fact that there were barely any cars [on St-Laurent], it was kind of scary to see it.

“It’s such a unique establishment with the snacks, the DJ, the pool table, the vibe of the bartenders, the sadness and emptiness really resonates.”

Inside Snack ‘n’ Blues

Inside Wilensky’s Light Lunch on Fairmount

For many Montreal institutions, it’s the first time in years or even decades that they have closed for more than a few days at a time, perhaps at Christmas or during the summer construction holiday. Among the oldest in that category is Wilensky’s on Fairmount, which opened in 1932, and has been in its current location since the ‘50s.

St-Denis Street pizza joint Chez Dany

Even inside open businesses, like Chez Dany on St-Denis, it’s a quiet scene.

Wilensky's Light Lunch

34 ave. Fairmount Ouest, Montréal, QC H2T 2M1 514-271-0247


4105, boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Y7 (514) 439-1850 Visit Website


4328 Boulevard St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1Z3 (514) 379-1233


3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, QC H2W 2M4 (514) 845-5333 Visit Website

Snack 'n' Blues

5260 boul. Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC (514) 278-8844

Chez Doval

150 Rue Marie-Anne, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, QC H2W 1A5 (514) 843-3390 Visit Website

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