As of September 1, anyone hoping to dine at Old Montreal French bistro Chez Éric & Fils will need proof of two doses of the coronavirus vaccine — a move owner Érik Luksenberg has said he’s making for the safety of all those involved.
A number of Montrealers posting on Google Reviews and social media are commending the restaurant — even “tipping their hat” to the owner — for taking a firm stance on vaccination and creating a safe environment for clients.
But as word of his policy circulated, so did the criticism directed his way, both in-person and online. Per TVA Nouvelle, passersby who believe Luksenberg’s policy infringes on their rights have been hurling insults at him from the street.
His detractors are also speaking out on Google Reviews. In the last 24 hours, several posters have vowed to boycott the restaurant, arguing that the policy is “discriminatory,” that medical information should be kept private, and, in some cases, going as far as to hyperbolically liken the policy to segregation.
The thing is, whether diners agree with Luksenberg or not, come September 1, it may no longer even be up to him. Earlier this month, Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé said that in the event of a possible fourth wave of the virus, the province may choose to implement so-called “vaccination passports,” banning people who aren’t fully vaccinated from accessing certain non-essential services, like restaurants and bars.
Requiring proof of vaccination could prevent the province from having to introduce yet another full-fledged lockdown on non-essential services, allowing businesses to remain open to those who are doubly vaccinated, Dubé explained at the time. Given the choice between shutting down completely for a third time or operating with this added layer of restriction — one more in a stack they’ve already become accustomed to, it’s safe to assume that many business owners would likely prefer the latter.
According to TVA, staff at Chez Éric & Fils have been informing patrons of the restaurant’s stance on vaccination, which in some cases has led patrons to leave the Place Jacques-Cartier restaurant — and then spread the news throughout the neighbourhood and on social media. The restaurateur also appeared on City News on July 17, explaining his policy, saying, “If it’s good for everyone, my family and me, then it’s good for my customers.” If patrons aren’t happy, they can go elsewhere, he added.
In Montreal, where restaurants were only permitted to reopen for indoor dining on June 7 (after over eight months of closure), Luksenberg seems to so far be alone in publicizing a rule that seems unpopular with a certain faction of the population. However, in the US, an uptick of cases largely spawned by the Delta variant has prompted restaurants in Seattle, New York City, and Washington DC to enact similar policies.
In Quebec, where about 64 percent of the population aged 12 and up has received two doses of the vaccine, the rise in the highly contagious Delta variant is also becoming a cause for concern. CTV reports that 77 people were infected with Delta at the beginning of July, compared to 286 on July 28. The surge in the variant unsurprisingly comes with an upswing in the province's overall number of COVID-19 cases.
Earlier this week, Dubé tweeted, “The Delta variant is already here,” urging Quebecers to get their second dose. “We have enough vaccines for everyone. Take advantage of it,” he said.