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Montreal Bars Now Free to Welcome Patrons Indoors — and Stay Open Until 2 a.m.

Health minister Christian Dubé announced an amendment to the restriction pertaining to closing time mere hours before the Montreal Canadiens were scheduled to play

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Quebec’s gradual reopening plan has seen Montreal’s hospitality industry emerge from months of hibernation, one restriction-loosening step at a time. Today, it’s the turn of bars to welcome patrons back inside.

Montreal restaurants were permitted to reopen their terrasses on May 28, and then their dining rooms on June 7, when the city became an orange zone on the province’s colour-coded coronavirus alert scale. Then, on June 11, bars equipped with terrasses across the province were allowed to reopen for outdoor service. With Montreal today becoming a yellow zone, bars may now serve drinks indoors for the first time since October 1.

The easing of indoor seating restrictions on bars in yellow zones comes with some expected restrictions: singing and dancing aren’t allowed, customers from more than two residences may not sit together, tables must be spaced two metres apart, patrons must remain seated, establishments must record customer contact information, capacity cannot exceed 50 percent, and bars must stop serving alcohol at midnight, and close by 2 a.m.

Quebec health minister Christian Dubé announced the last of these measures via Twitter mere hours before the Montreal Canadiens were scheduled to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the first game in their Stanley Cup semi-finals series on Monday at 9 p.m.

According to previously stipulated health and safety restrictions, bars would have an 11 p.m. last call and be forced to close at midnight, which could have resulted in hockey fans being booted out of establishments during the final minutes of a game. Two industry groups, the Association Restauration Québec and La Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec, had called on premier François Legault to ease rules on nights when the Habs are playing.

Though Dubé ended his tweet with a nod to the sport — “bon match!” — the new rule isn’t exclusive to hockey nights.

Legault is also pushing to amend ongoing coronavirus capacity limitations at the Bell Centre so that the Vegas Golden Knights don’t have a disproportionate home advantage, suggesting that a tug on his hockey-fan heartstrings is enough to get him to reconsider previously established health and safety protocols.

Montreal becoming a yellow zone today means the restrictions imposed on restaurants are also seeing a marginal change: any number of occupants from two households can now share a table, when previously only two adults from two households (plus their minor-age children) could be seated together. And, according to Dubé’s tweet, restaurants may also now serve alcohol until midnight.

Quebec reported 123 new COVID-19 cases today, including 48 from the island of Montreal.

Update: June 14, 2021, 7:57 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect health minister Christian Dubé’s announcement that bars in yellow zones may now remain open until 2 a.m.