As of Thursday, October 1, all restaurants and bars in Montreal will be closed for 28 days — with the exception of takeout and delivery. This includes outdoor terrasses.
The news was shared yesterday evening at a news conference held by public health director Horacio Arruda, health and public safety minister Christian Dubé, and premier François Legault, who announced that as of midnight on October 1, the entire Montreal metropolitan area (including Laval and Longueuil) would be crossing into the “red” zone, the highest category in the province’s COVID-19 alert system.
Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches were also classified “red” and must observe the same health measures, which include the closing of restaurants and bars, as well as movie theatres and performance halls, and restrictions on visiting the homes of others.
“We looked at the results over the weekend and the number of cases has gone up significantly,” the premier said. “The situation is critical and we must put in place new measures right now.”
On Sunday, 1,036 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the province, marking the highest daily uptick since May 6. On Monday, 750 new cases were reported.
The news comes hours after Quebec’s largest association of restaurants, the ARQ, released a statement pleading with the Quebec government not to close dining rooms once the province enters the “red” zone.
“The closure of dining rooms, even for just one or two weeks, would mean the permanent closure for many restaurants,” the statement reads. Montreal restaurants had already experienced a 50 percent decline in sales in July compared to the same month the previous year, the ARQ reports.
In the statement, the association shared that it had sent an email to Dubé proposing that restaurants be seen as part of the solution to managing the spread of the pandemic. “They offer customers an environment that is supervised, respectful of health directives and capable of being monitored by the police and public health, unlike when people gather at home,” the statement reads.
During Monday evening’s press event, Legault reassured restaurant and bar owners that the government is “working on a plan to help offset the financial losses that will be caused by the next 28 days.”
“I understand that these measures are difficult. I can put myself in the shoes of a restaurant or bar owner — I was myself once an entrepreneur — and it’s not funny what we are announcing today. I understand, but we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t to save lives and protect our healthcare system and our children,” Legault said.
Meanwhile, the support available to restaurant and bar workers remains uncertain. The Canada Emergency Relief Benefits (CERB) program, which as of last week paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people, expired over the weekend.
However, the federal government says it is working on fast-tracking a new bill creating benefits for those unable to work during the pandemic or ineligible to receive employment insurance (EI) for reasons such as failing to meet the minimum number of insurable hours.
Under Bill C-2, Canadians who are out of work due to reasons related to COVID-19 or whose income has dropped by at least 50 percent would receive $500 a week — the same as they would on CERB.
Data released by Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey in July reveals that at least 400,000 people who were previously employed in the food service sector are still out of work, even after dining rooms were opened back up.
In Montreal, the MRWRF continues to support workers in urgent need of financial aid, with increments of $50, $100, and $150 for things like groceries and medications. The fund is also open to undocumented workers.
The 28-day restaurant and bar shutdown was scheduled to begin on Thursday in order to give restaurants and other establishments enough time to adapt to takeout and delivery models, Legault said. Restaurants were swift in taking to social media to respond to the news.
Old Montreal Italian restaurant Un Po’ di Più posted on Instagram that as a result of the premier’s decision, it has “decided to open up our dining room tomorrow night (normally closed) and Wednesday night for two last services before this second quarantine.” Meanwhile, a post on the Instagram page of Saint-Henri’s Tuck Shop reads, “We have decided to get a jump start on our next pivot and will not be reopening our salle à manger this week.”
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What’s the old adage, when a dining room door closes another takeout window opens? In lieu of the recent announcements made by the QC government we have decided to get a jump start on our next pivot and will not be reopening our salle à manger this week. We believe this is the most responsible direction to move in and will allow us to get a jump start on developing a more robust take-away program and other mobile formats that we have been discussing. Will our terrace become a marketplace? Are we going to get back on the @portage.mtl trail? New menus? A tasteful bottle shop? An accompanying pantry for all your daily needs? So many ways to score when you’re in the #redzone and we have an All-Pro team that will put up points with whatever play gets called up. Apologies to any clients with reservations over the next two days, but keep your eyes on our social media accounts and our webpage for exciting possibilities to come. For everyone else, be safe, check in with your loved ones, and support your local merchants. Tuck Shop take away will be available online through our webpage Tuesday through Saturday.
In terms of what will happen after these 28 days, Legault says he cannot make any promises that the closures won’t be extended, but he believes “it is possible in 28 days to change the trajectory of the virus.”
- Montreal and Quebec City will enter red zone soon, health minister says [Montreal Gazette]
- Red alert: Private gatherings banned as bars, eat-in dining close in three Quebec regions [CTV News]
- How Quebec went from COVID-19 success story to hot spot in 30 days [CBC]
- Une nouvelle fermeture des salles à manger des restaurants doit être évitée à tout prix, clame l’industrie [ARQ]
- CERB to EI: What to know about transitioning to the new coronavirus benefits [Global]