Quebec bar owners make last ditch effort to stay open
In a last ditch effort to keep their establishments afloat, two Quebec bar owners associations have sent a letter to Premier Francois Legault, proposing even stricter regulations on capacity and distancing, in order to avoid a complete shutdown.
“We think it probably won’t be accepted, but we are trying to do something to save our livelihoods,” said Jean-Jacques Beachamp, CEO of the Quebec Bar Owners Association.
The letter asks the government to lower bar room capacities from 50 per cent to 15 per cent, set the maximum number of people per table at three, and require at least three meters distancing between tables.
“It’s another example of how we are willing to compromise,” said Beauchamp, who believes bars are paying the price for a large outbreak this summer at a Quebec City karaoke bar.
“We’ve worked very hard and listened to every recommendation we had from public health,” said Charles Landry, owner of Midway Tavern, on Saint-Laurent. “Now it's just one more time that we're the one being picked to be closed.”
The Bar Owners Association has sent multiple letters since March to the premier, health minister, and public health director, but still has not been consulted, according to Beauchamp, who owns La Chic Regal in Pointe-Saint-Charles.
“All the money we have invested into our bars to respect the COVID-19 rules, and this is the way they thanks us, by shutting us down for another 28 days, at least,” he said.
Bar owners are also willing to close their kitchens and ban all inter-table socializing, making "transmission of the virus practically impossible," explains the letter.
“We understand COVID is a big deal, and we are not reducing the emergency,” said Beauchamp. “But what’s going to happen? (People) are just going to go to bars in the yellow and orange zones, where there are even less measures in place.”
The prospect of a second shutdown is also frightening for bartenders, who are still reeling from the first closure and a summer where reduced capacities meant well below average tips.
“How are we going to pay our rent? How are we going to pay our electricity?” asked Melanie Caron, a bartender at La Chic Regal. “It’s not our fault. We’re not responsible for that situation.”