Quebec bars and restaurants demand to go to full capacity; minister asks for patience

Quebec's restaurant and bar industry wants the government to ease health measures, now that it has done so for the province's cultural sector.

The new association of bars in Quebec (NABQ) is asking the government for a little reprieve to help restaurants and bars hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, the association is asking that restaurants and bars be allowed to open at maximum capacity -- and until 3 a.m.

"We are asking the Quebec government, and in particular, Quebec Public Health, to be consistent," said NABQ President Pierre Thibault.

"If 22,000 people can be side by side in a venue like the Bell Centre with 10 centimetres of distance between them, we should also allow restaurants and bars to have the permitted capacity of their establishments under the same conditions."

On Monday, when the question was put to Health Minister Christian Dubé, he asked for patience.

"I understand very clearly that restaurant owners and bar owners, they want to lift those limitations," he said at a press conference on another matter.

"But I think we need to go through this month of October... [step] by step."

For example, expanding capacity at theatres, as the government recently announced, is "a big step," he said.

"Let's see, a couple of weeks out, how things go."

He added that Public Health "is committed" that each week, if the current stabilization continues, it will ease another rule.

The bar association said that establishments in the province have been following guidelines, making sure anyone who walks into their establishments shows proof of COVID-19 vaccination and other rules.

"It should also be remembered, as an example, that countries such as France, Belgium and Spain have allowed their businesses, from day one of the vaccine passport, to operate without any constraint on their capacity or hours of operation, unlike in Quebec," the association added.

According to Thibault, the industry will be most likely suffer a "knockout" that will prevent it from recovering if the requested relief is not granted.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Oct. 4, 2021, with files from CTV News.

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