MONTREAL – As Quebec lifted capacity restrictions in bars and restaurants on Monday, owners hoped to regain more of the business lost when the limits were imposed more than a year ago to curb the spread of COVID- 19.
Renaud Poulin, president of the Corporation of Owners of Bars, Brasseries and Taverns, said that while this is not a return to normal before the pandemic, it is good news.
âFor our members, this is welcome because it will allow them to increase capacity and resume the business that comes with normal opening hours,â said Poulin, who also owns Resto Bar La Chope in ChÃ¢teauguay, in Quebec, south of Montreal.
Hopefully it will be easier to attract employees as hours of operation return to normal, Poulin said. âA lot of companies made money from 11pm to 3am,â he said. The last 1 a.m. call that had been put in place reduced staff incomes and there was less incentive to fill shifts, he added: “More hours means more hours. employees will benefit as well, so we feel more staff will want to come back. “
Establishments that serve alcohol are now allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. – the closing time that was in place before the pandemic – and the required distance between tables has been reduced from two meters to one meter .
Reservations are no longer limited to 25 people, but each table can still only accommodate a maximum of ten people or groups of up to three different households. Dancing and singing inside bars and restaurants remain banned across the province, and guests must show proof of vaccination before they can enter.
Restaurant owners believe it is finally their turn to reap the rewards of easing restrictions after seeing dining rooms closed in some cities, including Montreal, for eight months at the height of the pandemic and surviving thanks to a financial aid or loans, said a spokesperson for the association.
âWe need these sales. Montreal restaurateurs were closed for eight months between October 2020 and June 2021 and took out loans to get by, âsaid Martin VÃ©zina of the Association des restaurateurs du QuÃ©bec.
VÃ©zina said his group’s discussions with the Quebec government raised hopes that the restrictions lifted this week will not return. His organization said about 15% of restaurants in the province have closed permanently during the pandemic, with more to follow as federal aid programs end.
Ziggy Eichenbaum, owner of Ziggy’s Pub on Crescent Street in downtown Montreal, said it would have closed without rent assistance. He said welcoming clients until 3 a.m. would be good for the result, even with protocols in place.
“We’re going to find out tonight, but it’s shaping up to be good,” Eichenbaum said. “That’s a lot of stuff, a lot of people would go home with the last call at 1am, at least now we get a second group of people coming in for a nightcap.”
Still, the co-owner of Montreal’s Burgundy Lion pub would like to see the restrictions relaxed further.
âNo singing, no dancing, no rising, no mixing. I still think it’s such an important issue,â said Paul Desbaillets, co-owner of the Burgundy Lion group. “It really puts a damper on the idea that we could sing to heaven about this new normal of looks.”
While you can’t dance in a Quebec nightclub, you can cheer and drink in a crowded arena or stadium.
“No one can understand what the difference is: remember, in all the establishments we are talking about, you only entered if you have the (vaccine) passport,” Desbaillets said.
Meanwhile, health officials on Monday reported 497 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations increased by eight, to 244, after 19 people entered the hospital and 11 were discharged. Sixty-seven people have been enrolled in intensive care, an increase of five from the previous day.
The Department of Health said 3,241 doses of the vaccine had been administered in the previous 24 hours, and the Institut de santÃ© publique du QuÃ©bec said that 87.9% of residents aged 12 and over are considered to be adequately vaccinated.
Quebec has 4,415 active reported cases of COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 1, 2021.