It has been a rough few months for Olé Tapas bistro and bar in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, on the western tip of the island of Montreal.
The restaurant moved into its current location by the boardwalk on March 11, but was forced to shut down just a few days later due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“At that moment, all the reinventing and imagination is replaced by survival,” said Francisco Vega, Olé Tapas’ owner.
Vega and his team are now preparing and adapting his restaurant to reopen the week of June 22.
The city has decided to reopen its boardwalk, which has been closed since the end of March as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, to help businesses like Olé Tapas flourish.
“At the same time, we know that our residents are fearful of having too many people around, so we’re trying to find a balance between the two.”
When the boardwalk officially opens next Monday, it will look a lot different than it did before.
Pedestrians will find arrows on the ground, indicating which direction they should walk. They will also come across hygiene and social distancing posters plastered on poles. Fences will be in place to block off some of the small alleyways along the strip to avoid people being too close together.
“We welcome about 100,000 visitors per summer,” said Hawa. “So we’re just trying to bring back some normalcy to the whole thing.”
Jim Beauchamp, president of the merchants on Ste-Anne Street and owner of Cunningham’s Pub, says reopening the boardwalk will be an immense help to businesses.
“The restaurants on the boardwalk side need three months to survive. They do 90 per cent of their business in three months of the year,” said Beauchamp.
“So if the boardwalk wasn’t open, we would see a lot of these businesses not being able to reopen — that’s how drastic it was.”
The city says it will monitor the boardwalk to make sure people are respecting the rules. If things get out of hand, Hawa says they won’t hesitate to shut it back down.