'What’s the difference?': Quebec bar owners fuming after full-capacity concert at Bell Centre

Some Quebec bar owners are upset that limits remain in place on capacity and distancing, at least in their businesses, after concertgoers were seen dancing and singing with no masks at the Bell Centre this weekend.

Some 15,000 fans attended a Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias concert on Saturday night, the first full-capacity show since the start of the pandemic.

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A post shared by Enrique Iglesias (@enriqueiglesias)

Fans were packed shoulder to shoulder, singing, dancing -- and many were not wearing masks. According to the Bell Centre rules, mask wearing is mandatory for fans, except while eating and drinking.

Anyone attending a concert or a hockey game also has to show their vaccine passport before entering the building.

Seeing the fans dancing, drinking and singing at the concert without a mask has many bar owners fuming, with some asking what the difference is between belting out a Ricky Martin song at the Bell Centre and being allowed to sing karaoke on stage at a bar, for example.

Jean-Jacques Beauchamp, CEO of the Quebec Bar Owners’ Association, said he wants to know why the Bell Centre has one set of rules and bars another.

“What’s the difference between the Bell Centre and my small bar and any other bars in Quebec? We are still paying the price with restrictions – 50 per cent capacity, limited opening hours and no karaoke!” he said.

“It’s time now to get down with the program, Mr. Legault and [Public Health]. Let’s give us some fresh air now that you give some to those millionaires at the Bell Centre.”

In a post on Instagram, downtown bar and live music venue Turbo Haus argued that the packed concert last weekend demonstrated "it's no longer about public safety."

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A post shared by Turbo Haüs (@turbo_haus)

Bars in Quebec are still required to operate at 50 per cent capacity, dancing isn't allowed and masks must be worn everywhere except when seated at a table eating and drinking.

On Wednesday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante called on the Quebec government to give bars a timeline.

“It's so important for them because they are waiting,” said Plante. “With the the vaccine passport, there's tools now so they can manage better. So I'm definitely asking the government to and public health and give them a timeline… so they can plan ahead and have some hope, because it's difficult for them.”

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