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Quebec Shuts Down Bars and Restricts Restaurant Hours as COVID-19 Cases Soar

The measures went into effect a few hours after being announced on Monday, though some businesses had already chosen to close

dark, empty bar with wine glasses on the counter and stool mounted on top. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Quebec has decided to close bars across the province as of 5 p.m. today (December 20) and limit hours for indoor dining at restaurants from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m, as it continues to post record-breaking COVID-19 case counts and mounting hospitalizations. (Takeout and delivery remain possible outside of the stipulated hours.)

The province’s health minister, Christian Dubé, made the announcement today during a 1 p.m. press conference, saying the situation was critical and didn’t appear to be improving. “People need to absolutely understand that they have to reduce their contacts,” he said.

Starting today, restaurants must also operate at 50 percent capacity, per an announcement Quebec premier François Legault made on December 16. At the time, Legault outlined a series of restrictions, including bans on singing and dancing, that would go into effect on December 20. Given the current outlook and concerns regarding the higher transmissibility of the omicron variant, the province has now determined that those measures won’t suffice.

Ahead of today’s government guidance, a number of Montreal bars, including nightclub Stereo and Little Burgundy pub Burgundy Lion, had already announced their own precautionary closures in view of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases. On the restaurant side, a number of establishments reacting to the ongoing coronavirus outbreaks have either decided to advance the start of their scheduled holiday hiatuses (as was the case for Arthurs and Vesta), flip to takeout-only (see: Cordova and Salle Climatisée), or temporarily close their doors for employees to get tested (see: Olive + Gourmando and Café Parvis).

But there’s at least one establishment that’s shown total disregard in the face of warnings about the current spread of the virus: On December 17, downtown restaurant and bar Kampai Garden hosted a blowout called “Happy New Year Whatever” — a last hoorah before the measures announced the day before were slated to go into effect. One of its owners posted videos from the event on social media showing a room tightly packed with patrons dancing, counting down to midnight, and flouting mask-wearing rules.

Reacting to “last chance” parties like this one, Montreal’s director of the public health department, Mylène Drouin, posted on Twitter, saying, This is not the time to celebrate.”

Quebec recorded 4,571 new cases of COVID-19 today — an all-time high for the province, where hospitalizations and ICU numbers are also on the rise.

Following the closure announcement, Quebec confirmed that it is bringing back its financial aid for businesses affected by the government restrictions — though industry members are calling for changes to the program.

Meanwhile, Quebec bar workers who were left without a job after Monday’s announcement will reportedly qualify for the federal government’s new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB), according to a Le Devoir article published December 21. While the former Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provided individuals $2,000 per month earlier in the pandemic, applicants eligible for CWLB would now only receive $300 per week. That said, at the time of publishing, the government website states that CWLB applications aren’t open because no region is currently designated as being under COVID-19 lockdown.

Update: December 21, 2021, 1:45 p.m. This article has been updated to include information about financial aid for businesses and workers.
Correction: December 20, 2021, 4:55 p.m. This article was corrected to show that the province is limiting restaurant dining room hours to 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., not 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.