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What Some Montreal Bars Think About Denis Coderre’s Proposed Nighttime Ban on Alcohol in Parks

Even though the ban could indirectly benefit restaurants and bars, several business owners aren’t so keen on the mayoral candidate’s declaration

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If there were a part of the Montreal population that could conceivably be in favour of a ban on drinking in parks at night, restaurant and bars with terrasses might be a part of it; after all, they’re in a position to offer an alternative.

And yet, several industry members say they aren’t keen on mayoral candidate Denis Coderre’s declaration this week that, should he win in November, he’d consider a ban on alcohol consumption in parks after 8 p.m.

“We believe in freedom and less rules. We love drinking in the park,” Nikolas Da Fonseca, sommelier of vinvinvin, a Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie wine bar that delivers bottles directly to nearby Père Marquette, messaged Eater Wednesday.

Coderre, a former mayor of Montreal, shared his idea for a ban on alcohol in Montreal parks at a news conference on June 2, following reports of violence in parks and Montreal’s Old Port over the weekend — the first without a nightly curfew in Quebec since January. As a result of the incidents, Montreal’s Old Port will be closed between midnight and 6 a.m. starting today.

Coderre said this behaviour convinced him that a measure that would prohibit people from consuming alcohol after 8 p.m. in parks would serve to “protect people from themselves.” He subsequently specified on Twitter that if introduced, the ban would be temporary.

Several people on social media reacted to the news with speculation that Coderre might also be trying to win over restaurant and bar owners who presumably stand to benefit from a ban that would limit where Montrealers can legally consume alcohol outside at night and perhaps help usher them to their establishments.

Martin Vézina, spokesperson for Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), says via an email to Eater that though the Quebec restaurant lobby does “not have a stake in allowing or not drinking in park after 8 p.m.,” the ban could benefit restaurants and bars next summer. “People who will want to have a drink will have to go to restaurants and bars’ patio, so it cannot be a bad thing for our members.” He notes, however, that the ability to drink in parks has been a blessing for businesses who’ve been selling takeout, while unable to host diners on-site due to coronavirus restrictions.

Just earlier this week, Coderre tweeted a photo of roadwork being done on Notre-Dame Street, in front of Joe Beef restaurant on the day that it had planned to reopen for outdoor dining, expressing support for an industry that has “had it hard enough” without the extra hassle. Cookbook writer and former Montreal Gazette food critic Lesley Chesterman soon after reminded followers on Twitter that widespread construction that disrupted restaurant operations was just as much a hallmark of Coderre’s 2013-2017 tenure.

Asked what a ban on alcohol in parks could mean for his industry, Paul Desbaillets, co-owner of Montreal pubs like Burgundy Lion, Wolf & Workman, and Bishop & Bagg, says he isn’t convinced it would change much. “The truth of the matter is if someone is frequenting a bar or a restaurant, they are coming for the experience, the ambience, the music, the food, the cocktail and everything that comes with it. The person that wants to drink in a park at night most likely wants to do a picnic or their own thing in a park. They most likely don’t want to come to a restaurant or bar anyways.”

Desbaillets adds that after nearly two years of restrictions, Montreals are simply “tired of all the rules.”

Meanwhile, in a Tweet that jointly refers to Coderre’s proposed ban and to a widely disparaged National Post op-ed published yesterday that calls parks “a waste of space,” Quartier Latin bar and music venue Turbo Haüs, says, “...it’s clear that they just don’t want poor people to have even the slightest bit of joy in their lives.”

In her own rebuttal, incumbent mayor Valérie Plante said Coderre was out of step with Montrealers, noting that 60 percent of them don’t have a backyard. Activist, former Alouette, and other mayoral candidate Balarama Holness called the policy “short-sighted” and “discriminatory,” saying that it would “disproportionately affect young people, marginalized folks and low-income or unhoused populations in Montreal.”

At the moment, Montrealers are technically already not allowed to drink in parks without an accompanying meal — a bylaw that Plante said has been in place for 30 years.

On June 4, just two days after his initial declaration, Coderre back-pedalled on the policy, telling reporters that the existing bylaw would suffice, but that it needed to be more strictly enforced.

Update: June 4, 2021, 12:45 p.m.: This post has been updated to include mayoral candidate Balarama Holness’s reaction to the ban, and Denis Coderre’s change of heart on June 4.

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