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One of Quebec’s Favourite Pastimes Is Now Banned, Indefinitely

Karaoke nights at bars around the province have been put on pause, after cases linked to one night at Bar Kirouac continue to escalate

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The Quebec government released a statement today stating the immediate suspension of karaoke in bars, community halls, and other venues across the province, due to the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

The move comes on the heels of a COVID-19 outbreak that has been traced back to a karaoke night held at Le Kirouac bar in Quebec City on August 23. The total number of cases linked to the outbreak currently sits at 68, including 18 instances of community transmission. The infections contracted at the bar have led to cases at four Quebec City schools, CTV reports.

The projection of respiratory particles while singing, the proximity of participants during performances, and the sharing of microphones that could be potentially coated in virus-bearing droplets are among the reasons the decision has been made, the statement by Quebec’s Health Ministry reads.

In Quebec, karaoke has a lively community of practitioners unlikely to take this sitting (and silent).

Last weekend, after Quebec’s director of public health Horacio Arruda commented on the dangers of karaoke in relation to the La Kirouac incident, Quebec performer Billy Karaoke organized a pro-karaoke demonstration in Lalancette park in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. During the event, a dozen amateur singers performed to an audience of 50, who chanted along while waving signs denouncing “karaoke-phobia.”

“Karaoke is popular all over the world, but in Quebec it is very popular,” says Danny Jobin, owner of Gay Village karaoke spot Le Date, which he says has lineups every single day of the week. “Even on Mondays we have to turn people away sometimes.”

“I’m very sad because we are having to pay for some people who just didn’t care about COVID. I’ve been doing the best I can at my bar in Montreal, training staff, sanitizing, but now it’s just finished. They’ve decided karaoke is criminal,” Jobin tells Eater, adding that at Le Date, microphones had been disinfected after every use and plexiglass dividers had been installed on stage to separate performers from the audience.

The ban affects about 500 bars across the province, but does not prevent them “from continuing their other activities, on condition that they comply with the instructions in place,” Arruda says in the statement.

Current bar regulations mandate operating at 50 percent capacity, maintaining 2 meters of physical distance, and announcing the last call at midnight instead of 3 a.m. As of this morning, the government is also instructing bar owners to keep a registry of customers who enter their establishment — something that had been previously encouraged but not enforced.