Less than two weeks after the Quebec government permitted all bars to reopen, the province is now threatening fines and shut-downs for venues that don’t enforce social distancing rules.
Almost all businesses in the province were permitted to reopen as of June 25, and shortly thereafter, stories of overcrowded venues began to surface.
TVA reported on “out of control dance floors” at some nightclubs last weekend, as well as crowds of people gathering in tight proximity. While clubs are allowed to open, dancing is not allowed, meaning they in effect have to operate like sit-down bars.
The provincial government has responded to such reports, with health minister Christian Dubé announcing that police will more regularly check in on bars and nightclubs to ensure that social distancing measures are being followed.
The province is also set to unveil other measures on Thursday, with possible repercussions for both customers and businesses that don’t follow rules to stem the spread of COVID-19. According to La Presse, fines are a likely penalty, although Dubé is also consulting the Régie des alcools, des courses, et des jeux to determine if alcohol permits could be targeted at venues that don’t take the proper precautions.
Ordering bars and nightclubs to close earlier is another option, given that problems with social distancing are more likely to occur when people have been drinking over an extended period. Bars are currently allowed to stay open until 3 a.m., the same as before the pandemic.
The novel coronavirus has already made an appearance in at least one bar in greater Montreal — Brossard’s Mile Public House, in the Dix30 shopping complex, has drawn attention after somebody infected with COVID-19 visited the bar last week. Public health authorities are asking anybody that visited the bar from 8 p.m. until close last Tuesday evening (June 30) to get tested for coronavirus.
Reports have since emerged that the case recorded at Mile Public House could be traced to a house party that took place on the weekend of June 27 in Saint-Chrysostome, in Montérégie. That party and one other are now connected to 20 new cases of COVID-19.
The movements of those party guests have had a ripple effect, particularly in the suburb of Mercier, where workers at an IGA supermarket and a McDonald’s tested positive, prompting a thorough disinfection of those businesses.
One worker at Mercier bakery Fantaisie du Blé also tested positive, while an employee of restaurant Grégoire had close contact with a partygoer — these two establishments have voluntarily closed their doors temporarily.