Police shut down St. Henri resto-bar for selling food for takeout and delivery
The owner of a St. Henri bar is being forced by Montreal police to stop its takeout and delivery food service.
The Loïc resto-bar on Notre-Dame St. was forced to close, along with every other bar in the city, a couple of weeks ago as part of the Quebec government's ban on crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many bars in the city, Loïc has a kitchen, and hoped to operate it as a way to earn some income — and quite possibly, survive — during the crisis. But according to an social media post, the Montreal police morality squad, which is in charge of bars, had other ideas.
"March 27th, at around 9pm the Morality Police visited Loïc and told us we were no longer allowed to remain operational for takeout and delivery," the post reads. " They said the reason is that we are licensed as a bar and therefore had to remain closed. This is in spite of the fact we have a Permis Restaurateur issued to us by the MAPAQ [Quebec's agriculture, fisheries and food ministry]. As is public knowledge Loïc has always served food as part of our offering."
Michael Griffin, the bar's owner, tells CJAD 800's Natasha Hall that he had to lay off most of his staff after they closed, to allow them to qualify for financial assistance. Not long after that, he says he received a mass email from the SAQ suggesting they would be able to offer wine with food deliveries.
That led him to believe that remaining open as a takeout restaurant would allow them to continue to operate.
'We were looking for a solution'
"We were looking for a solution, and me and my other partners thought this might be a way to weather the storm," Griffin says. "The support was actually fantastic. The community reallly appreciated the service. We were actually selling out of meals every single day."
That carried on for nearly two weeks, until police showed up in an unmarked car and told them they needed to shut down.
"They arrived...and told us that what we were doing was illegal and we had to shut down, because we had a bar permit. We showed them that we have a restaurateur permit, given by a different government agency, but they said that didn't matter. We showed them emails from the SAQ encouraging us to deliver, they said that didn't matter. Since then, we've been in quarantine, just like everybody else, and the bar has been closed."
Griffin says he still doesn't know if he'll face consequences for staying open.
In the meantime, he has launched an online petition, which as of Tuesday at 6 p.m. had 2,700 names on it. Aside from rallying support for the bar, the purpose of the petition, he says, is to press the point that shutting Loïc down was a bureaucratic mistake.
"If there is an occasion where we've committed some type of infraction, we'd at least like to say that we were offering a service that was safe," Griffin says. "We just wanted to show that the community was behind us, that we weren't doing anything that was seedy."