Some Montrealers may think it’s long overdue, others perhaps a little premature, but either way, it’s happening: As of today, the city’s restaurants are allowed to serve diners indoors.
Montreal’s restaurant dining rooms have been idle since October 1, 2020, when they were ordered shut for what was meant to be a 28-day lockdown intended to quell a spike in coronavirus cases — a measure that was then continuously prolonged until now, over eight months later.
Restaurants have had to make do with takeout and delivery alone until May 28, when those equipped with terrasses were able to reopen them for table service. Now, 10 days later, as Montreal (and neighbouring Laval) move into the less restrictive orange zone on Quebec’s COVID-19 alert scale, they are also permitted to welcome customers indoors.
Rules do apply, though, and they include seating a maximum of two adults (accompanied by their minor-age children) from different addresses at the same table, or the occupants of a single dwelling. Restaurants must also keep an attendance registry, and reservations are mandatory.
Yesterday, on the city’s last day of government-mandated dining room closures, Quebec reported 179 new cases, with 57 out of Montreal. For comparison: on the first day of the October restaurant lockdown, Quebec recorded 933 new cases of COVID-19, of which 319 were from Montreal.
And though restaurants are technically allowed to re-emerge from hibernation as of today, many won’t. It is, after all, a Monday, which in Montreal typically spells rest for much of the city’s hospitality industry. On top of that, many will still be getting their staffing and spaces in order, reconfiguring their makeshift grocery stores and takeout-perfected setups back into functional dining rooms.
So as was the case with the return of terrasses, reopenings are likely to be gradual and not without their snags. A random sampling of restaurants in the city shows a varied timeline, with pasta purveyor Impasto and upscale Outremont sushi spot Jun I opening on Wednesday, downtown Japanese eatery Kazu and Pullman wine bar both aiming for Thursday, and places like Little Italy’s Vin Mon Lapin and Niçoise restaurant Paloma plotting their in-person comeback for the following week. Looking for something a little sooner, as in today? Indian curries at Le Taj, truffle spaghetti at Foiegwa, and dim sum at Chinatown’s Impérial are all up for grabs.