As Quebec reopens, bar owners don’t understand why the last call is still midnight

People sit in a bar in downtown Montreal as Premier François Legault holds a television press conference on September 28, 2020.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

Quebec bar owners say they don’t understand why the COVID-19 health ordinance banning alcohol sales after midnight is still in effect, and they say the rule is hurting business and causing some customers to drink irresponsible way.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Ziggy Eichenbaum, owner of Ziggy’s Pub in downtown Montreal, said Tuesday.

He said that with the last call at midnight – rather than the usual 3 a.m. – he loses about 50 to 60 percent of his evening business. The latest early call, Eichenbaum added, is unreasonable at a time when other provinces, including Ontario, allow bars to remain open until their pre-pandemic hours.

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“It seems the Prime Minister thinks Quebeckers can’t drink,” Eichenbaum said. “The rest of Canada is doing well, there is only Quebec.

COVID-19 health ordinances require bars and nightclubs to close at 2 a.m., but ban the sale of alcohol after midnight. Customers must be seated and dancing is not permitted.

Pierre Thibault, president of a group of Quebec bar owners called Nouvelle association des bars du Quebec, said in an interview on Tuesday that he was worried about the future of the city‘s nightclubs, several of which remain closed. . While the situation is frustrating for bars, many are able to survive by serving alcohol from noon to midnight, he said.

Nightclubs, however, cannot provide the experience that customers are looking for as dancing is prohibited. “The people who loved their nightclub, they were there for a week, two weeks, but now it’s not a nightclub anymore, so they’re not coming back,” he said. People who want to dance go elsewhere, including private parties, he added.

Mathieu Drapeau, owner of Club Unity in the village of Montreal, said he was lucky his business had a rooftop terrace – the only part of his club he had reopened. He said he was trying to adapt to the rules by opening earlier, but attracting customers on weekend afternoons costs marketing money at a time when all he does is keep the club at bay. flow. If the rules don’t change by fall, he said he risked going out of business.

Drapeau said he heard customers talk about going to house parties when they left the bar. “It’s much better, from my point of view, to keep people on my roof terrace – it’s on the third floor, there’s fresh air,” he said, adding that the people are required to stay in their places – something he said was’ This doesn’t happen at a crowded house party.

Renaud Poulin, CEO of a bar owners association, said his group planned to write to the provincial government on Tuesday to ask when the bar restrictions will be relaxed. Poulin, of the Corporation of Quebec Bar, Brasseries and Tavern Owners, said its members would like an explanation as to why the early closing time remains in place.

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Poulin said the rules encourage some customers to order large amounts of alcohol shortly before the last call, which he says can cause problems and lead to binge drinking.

Eichenbaum said his customers try to drink as much as possible before it’s time to leave. “From a quarter to midnight, or from 10 to midnight, people ask me for 15, 20 shots and five pitchers of beer,” Eichenbaum said, adding that he rejected those requests.

He said he hoped the last call would return to its usual time before the Canadian border reopens in August to tourists from the United States. “I hope that with the opening of the border and that all tourists returning to Montreal (Prime Minister François Legault) will realize that Montreal is known for its nightlife,” he said.

“If he wants to kill Montreal, he’s doing a good job.

The Department of Health did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Quebec reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and no deaths linked to the new coronavirus.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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