Quebec restaurant owners feel betrayed, pen open letter to premier asking for a plan to revive industry

Restaurant owners are asking Quebec Premier François Legault to do the right thing. They say they feel betrayed after adjusting their dining rooms during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and are claiming the right to welcome customers again.

In an open letter to the premier, the restaurant industry said that the 28-day break, imposed on October 1 in the Montreal and Quebec regions, is drawing to a close and that it needs predictability to revive their businesses.

Since the first wave of closures, several other regions of the province have also entered the red zone, according to the government's alert level, which has resulted in the closure of many other dining rooms.

The 40 signatories of the letter bring together big players in the restaurant business, including Sportscene Group (La Cage), St-Hubert, MTY, Normandin and even Jerome Ferrer.

Restaurateurs are not alone. Many representatives of the food economic ecosystem such as Colabor, the Quebec Food Processing Council, Olymel and Exceldor have also voiced their support.

There is growing concern about the fate of the thousands of workers affected directly or indirectly by the closures. In addition to losing their jobs, many workers are experiencing psychological distress due to job uncertainty.

"We are very worried about what lies ahead, and the situation is untenable in the medium and long term. We absolutely have to learn to live with COVID-19, learn to socialize again," said Association Restauration Québec (ARQ) vice-president of public and government affairs Francois Meunier.

While claiming to understand the desire of public health to limit access to places of socialization, restaurant owners believe, on the contrary, that they can offer safe supervision.

Meunier said that police, public health and the workplace safety commission (CNESST) all monitor restaurants closely.

"So we can offer a much safer socialization environment than private homes," he said, adding that restaurateurs have invested a lot of money to adapt their dining rooms to public health instructions during the first wave of the pandemic.

��ZONE ROUGE : DE NOUVEAUX SECTEURS CONCERNÉES ➡️ Christian Dubé, ministre de la Santé et des service sociaux, a annoncé...

Posted by Association Restauration Québec - ARQ on  Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The signatories of the letter to Francois Legault believe they have the "right to know the reasons and the data that led to the closures" in the hope of finding a solution.

Meunier is not ruling out any scenario.

"To review the reception capacity, to review the opening hours, to review the number of people seated together and which bubbles they come from, we cannot be closed to the idea of discussing it," he said.

Restaurant owners claim that they need clear information at short notice since relaunching a restaurant requires a certain time to stock up on food and to mobilize a work team.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.

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