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Montreal Restaurants Contend With Wave of Cancellations as Coronavirus Surges

What is typically one of the busiest times of the year for the industry is quieting down as omicron uncertainty sets

restaurant table and chairs Hoogan et Beaufort/Facebook

Montreal’s food and drink establishments are grappling with a slew of last-minute cancellations, particularly from larger groups, likely spiked by concerns over the coronavirus, multiple news outlets are reporting this morning.

In a report from La Presse, Marc-André Jetté, the chef-owner of Hoogan et Beaufort in Rosemont’s Technopôle Angus, shares that two large groups — one of 100 people scheduled to dine at the restaurant today and another of 200 people set for tomorrow — have unexpectedly cancelled their reservations. The piece details cancellations at Latin Quarter brasserie Le Saint-Bock and sibling Portuguese restaurants Helena and Portus 360 as well, while similar reports from Métro and Radio-Canada add a half-dozen establishments to the list of those experiencing the same.

Growing concerns surrounding the omicron variant of COVID-19 and the recent surge in cases across the province led Quebec health minister Christian Dubé to recommend a return to remote work on Tuesday. It appears that some felt at odds with the inconsistency of asking workers to avoid the office, but still attend a holiday party, as several restaurants report the cancellations pouring in just after Tuesday’s presser.

The holiday period is a critical moneymaker for the industry — and all the more important to their bottom line given the past 20 months. This year, preparations were complicated by the worker strike at Quebec’s provincial alcohol monopoly, the SAQ, which has left many scrambling to stock up. Now, it seems restaurants will have fewer diners to uncork the bottles for than they predicted.

Currently, restaurants across the province are required to check diners’ proof of vaccination, but Wednesday’s coronavirus tallies show that 90 percent of Montreal’s 95 cases linked to omicron were breakthrough cases. On Wednesday, Montreal’s director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, recommended that people avoid in-person parties in an effort to reduce community spread.

Quebec premier François Legault tweeted this morning that “the situation is critical” and that he’d be announcing “important measures due to the increase in COVID cases and the new Omicron variant” during a 6 p.m. press conference today. It’s unclear whether the measures will affect the restaurant and bar industry.