Restaurants can officially debut their terrasses today (May 28), and if the turnout at pub Burgundy Lion’s 8 a.m. “breakfast and beers” session is any indication, Montrealers don’t plan to squander any minute of it — even if the weather is less than stellar.
But after over a year of government-mandated closures and coronavirus safety protocols, dining at your favourite restaurant isn’t as it once was. Here’s what you can expect when hitting up Montreal’s reanimated restaurant scene:
Terrasse options are better than ever, but also more makeshift
Even before the pandemic, Montreal was well-equipped with an enviable terrasse scene. With the ongoing ban on indoor dining, restaurants that never had one are now joining in too, and those that already did are stretching their spaces however far they can. At the same time, back-ordered materials, construction delays, and premier François Legault’s relatively short notice have led some to get crafty, doing things like repurposing furniture from their unused dining rooms or nestling into a neighbouring parking lot.
COVID safety rules remain very much in effect
Legault’s “gradual reopening” may feel like cause for unbridled celebration, but COVID-19 safety rules should still be followed — including on restaurant terrasses. Expect two meters of spacing (or a physical barrier) between tables, a requirement to mask up when standing, and having to provide your name and contact information for a registry in case of an outbreak. Another important restriction is a cap on the number of people seated at a given table: either two adults (with their children) from different addresses or a group of people living at the same residence.
Reservations are necessary — and should be kept
According to a summary of a government decree published yesterday by the Quebec restaurant lobby ARQ, reservations are mandatory at all restaurants, except for at fast food outlets. What that means for restaurants that planned to allow patrons to purchase food for takeout and eat it on-site without offering table service remains unclear.
And, this should go without saying, but if you make a reservation, please keep it — or at least call ahead to cancel. A no-show is a blow no restaurants needs right now, and it is also inconsiderate to fellow diners sifting through their restaurant rolodex to land a table at one of the city’s more popular establishments. If the reason you are cancelling is because of the weather, consider dropping by and picking up some food for takeout anyway.
Expect some hiccups
If you are planning to eat out this weekend, be warned that likely not everything will go as planned. Waits could be longer than they were pre-pandemic, especially if you’re hoping to snag a last-minute reservation during the hotly sought-after 6 to 8 p.m. window. Meanwhile, your favourite dish, you know, the one you’ve been dreaming of all pandemic? It might no longer be on the menu, as restaurants continue to streamline their offerings for the times. When it comes to service, some restaurant workers may still be getting up to speed after nearly eight months without practice, while others may be feeling understandably conflicted about being in such close proximity to strangers before having received their second dose of the vaccine. Others will be brand-new to the job. Be kind.
Some of your favourite spots may not be ready to host you
Restaurateurs’ mad scramble to build terrasses and fill empty positions has received blanket press coverage, so it should come by no surprise that not everyone was ready for the figurative May 28 opening ceremony. There are others — several on St-Laurent, for instance — that have had to put their terrasse plans on hold as they wait on the city to complete its own construction projects. Still, others are unable to build a terrasse at all due to the placement of fire hydrants and bus routes, and will have to wait until indoor dining resumes, likely on June 7, to offer in-person service.
Check out this running list of Montreal terrasses to see what’s open. If you know of one that is opening, but not listed, send us a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking for a more curated selection? See this one for 25 standout options in Montreal.