Restaurants and bars across the province will have to return to half capacity starting Monday, December 20, Quebec Premier François Legault announced Thursday, December 16, during a 6 p.m. presser. He cited an “explosion” in COVID-19 cases and the encroaching omicron variant as factors prompting the decision.
After this weekend, the province’s bans on dancing and singing (karaoke) in Quebec bars and nightclubs will also be renewed — just over one month since they were dissolved. (Restaurants were permitted to return to full capacity a little earlier, on November 1, though they still had to maintain one meter between tables, if partitions weren’t installed.)
The rules going into effect on Monday for restaurants and bars are just a few in a longer list — also including restrictions on holiday gatherings in homes and a requirement to now check for proof of vaccination at places of worship — that comes as the province anticipates 3,700 new cases of the virus to be recorded on Friday, December 17. If that figure is clocked, it would be the single highest daily case count for the province since the start of the pandemic. (As of publication, the province still hasn’t updated its tally for the day.)
Though hospitalizations remain low compared to the swell in cases, Legault said experts expect to see an uptick in the coming weeks.
Shortly before yesterday evening’s presser, Radio-Canada reported that Laval restaurant Le Boating Club had closed its doors for 10 days after an investigation revealed a group of 32 colleagues who dined at the restaurant on December 9 were nearly all infected with the virus — only one tested negative. According to the report, restaurant employees were also infected, including at least one suspected case of the omicron variant. Since restaurants in Quebec are mandated to check for proof of vaccination, diners had all presumably received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine; the province does not require restaurant workers to be vaccinated.
Since yesterday, a number of Montreal restaurants and bars, including Beaubien Street slice shop Pizza Bouquet, NDG mainstay Monkland Taverne, and downtown cocktail bar Furco, have posted notices of precautionary closures on Instagram, citing possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19 exposure. Meanwhile, Monkland Village Café de Mercanti posted that due to the rise in coronavirus cases in Montreal, it’s decided to voluntarily resort to takeout-only starting December 17.
Before this week, many establishments in the city had been gearing up — and stocking up — for what is historically one of the busiest times of the year. However, as government officials began to signal that the COVID picture was growing increasingly worrisome, group reservations started to drop off — even before this latest wave of measures was announced.
Legault explained on Thursday that minimizing social contact was just one of the province’s “weapons” against the virus; vaccination was the other. He said that a third dose of the vaccine would be critical in the face of the more transmissible omicron. But, at the moment, only health workers, pregnant people, immunocompromised individuals, anyone 70 and older, and some other small groups are eligible. Starting December 20, eligibility extends to those 65 and over — but not to restaurant workers who continue to risk exposure as diners eat unmasked inside establishments, even if at half capacity.
Eighty-three percent of Quebecers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 77 percent have had two.