Restaurants in Montreal will be allowed to open their dining rooms again on June 22, three full months after the provincial government ordered them to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Food and agriculture minister André Lamontagne announced Monday afternoon that restaurants in most of Quebec will be permitted to reopen their dining rooms as of next Monday (June 15), but greater Montreal was required to wait a week longer due to its higher number of coronavirus cases.
The June 22 reopening date covers the entire islands of Montreal and Laval, and surrounding suburbs as far away as Hudson, Mont-St-Hilaire, Mirabel, and L’Assomption. (Two further municipalities outside greater Montreal — Joliette and L’Épiphanie — will also have to wait until June 22.)
However, the long-awaited reopening announcement doesn’t mean dining will return to the pre-coronavirus status quo. Restaurants will be required to keep two metres between tables, meaning many establishments will have to operate with reduced capacity. Servers and anybody else dealing with customers face-to-face will be required to wear face masks and plastic visors, and other employees (such as kitchen staff) will also be required to wear masks if they’re unable to keep sufficient distance from others.
Self-serve food stations (including buffets) will not be allowed, and staff will be expected to clean tables, chairs, and menus after each use.
The reopening doesn’t mean that large groups will be permitted: for now, only groups of up to 10 people from no more than three households will be permitted to dine in restaurants, in line with the province’s broader rules on indoor gatherings.
Montreal and Laval have been Quebec’s hotspots for COVID-19, with over 31,000 cases and 3,700 deaths recorded on the two islands, accounting for well over half the cases and deaaths in the province.
While it seems like a long list of rules, Quebec’s rules are roughly in line with plenty of other jurisdictions that have also started reopening after coronavirus-related lockdowns. Quebec’s labour authority, the Normes du Travail, has also published guides Plus, there are signs that the provincial government is trying to make life easier for restaurateurs.
For example, minister Lamontagne also announced that Quebec’s Régie des alcools, des courses, et des jeux will quickly and easily grant alcohol permits for restaurant terrasses, to encourage outdoor dining (which carries a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission). Some municipal governments are taking the same approach, waiving fees for terrasse permits, and permitting larger terrasses than in past years.
There’s good news for (some) bar owners, too: bars that serve food will also be allowed to reopen at the same time — perhaps a surprise, given the rather firm line that Quebec has drawn between bars and restaurants in the past. Bars without kitchens will have to wait, with a public health official noting that social distancing is trickier to enforce if people are drinking and partying.
At the press conference, Lamontagne also announced that the government is planning to relax rules around to-go alcohol. Bill 61, which broadly deals with “restarting” Quebec’s economy, will allow for alcohol to be sold via delivery platforms like UberEats, without requiring a food order, although Lamontagne did not clarify whether this would apply to bars, or only restaurants.