Montreal borough can limit where fast food restaurants open: Quebec judge

MONTREAL – A Quebec Superior Court judge has ruled that Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough is allowed to limit where any new fast food restaurants open on its territory.

This comes after a zoning bylaw was passed in 2016 to “severely” restrict new chains from opening in the neighbhourhood in an effort to promote healthy living.

City Councillor Marvin Rotrand championed the bill, saying permits for fast food restaurants will only be issued in three areas:

  • Saint-Jacques Street, between West Broadway Street and Benny Crescent,
  • Decarie Boulevard, between Queen Mary Road and Vézina Street,
  • Plaza Côte-des-Neiges.

The bylaw was challenged by advocacy group Restaurants Canada, as well as several fast food giants, including St-Hubert, A&W and Macdonald’s.

They argued the bylaw is illegal as it aims to control people’s consumption habits, including children who go to nearby schools.

The group insisted fast food restaurants do offer healthier menu choices, as well as ingredient information to promote healthy lifestyles.

“They are creating distinctions between restaurants… The definition of ‘fast food’…is between those who offer table service compared to those who do not, even if it's the same food,” they argued.

In his ruling, Quebec Superior Court Judge Marc St-Pierre stated that the borough was acting within its purview.

“Existing fast foods have acquired rights, but if they close, no new permit can be issued for their current locations,” Rotrand explains.

“Had we lost, municipalities would have been reduced to being simply providers of direct services: snow removal, pothole filling.”

It is possible that Restaurants Canada will appeal the decision.