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Visit from language watchdog leaves Montreal restaurant owner furious

Click to play video 'Well-known Montreal breakfast restaurant gets unexpected visit from Quebec’s language watchdog' Well-known Montreal breakfast restaurant gets unexpected visit from Quebec’s language watchdog
WATCH: Kitchen 73 has been in business since 2011, their name is trademarked and the owners say their signage adheres to the provincial language laws. But on Thursday, Quebec’s language watchdog paid the restaurant a visit to follow up on a complaint from a customer. As Global's Felicia Parrillo explains, the owners of the restaurant say the province shouldn't be focused on language when so many businesses are failing due to the pandemic – Oct 23, 2020

Carmen Anoia and his brother are struggling to keep their restaurants afloat amid the pandemic.

They are the founders of Kitchen 73 and own three locations — one in each of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Mirabel and Rivière-des-Prairies.

The restaurant, known for its breakfast and lunch, is currently operating on takeout only, as are many others across the province.

Read more: Quebec plans to expand French language law to federally regulated businesses

So when Anoia received a visit from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) on Thursday at his Rivière-des-Prairies restaurant, he was furious.

“Around 3 p.m. in the afternoon, we had a visit from a language inspector that came in to verify our signage to possibly give us a fine for non-conformity, although this issue was already rectified seven years ago,” said Anoia.

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Read more: 40% of Quebec companies want their employees to have English language skills, poll finds

Anoia is referring to his name, Kitchen 73, which he says was trademarked years ago.

According to the province’s language laws, if you have a trademarked English name, you are required to add French descriptors. Kitchen 73 has the words “déjeuner-dîner-traiteur” underneath it.

Anoia says his name was the subject of a complaint in 2013 with the OQLF, but the issue was sorted out. He said his anger is partly due to the fact that his restaurants have been visited five times, since opening in 2011.

“You have people who already know how depleted our industry is and you’re coming to bother us? Our mind is focused on how can we get another client through the door for us to survive another month, or two months,” said Anoia. “I’m baffled.”

Read more: Quebec government’s moves to protect French language spark debate amid pandemic

Anoia said he was so upset with the inspector that he asked him to leave the restaurant before they finished their conversation. He said his anger is partly due to the fact that his restaurants have been visited four times before.

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In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the OQLF said a complaint was made to its office about signage inside the Kitchen 73 restaurant, and not his sign outside.

“The Office is fully aware of the context of COVID-19 and is making every effort to minimize the impact on its clients. In addition, we make sure to make an appointment before carrying out an inspection. This is what was attempted in this case. Unable to reach the owner, the inspector went to the Kitchen 73 restaurant on Thursday afternoon to carry out the required verification.”

Read more: Quebec introduces new resources to enforce French language laws

Last month, some criticized the province for giving a $5-million budget boost to the OQLF amid rising COVID-19 cases and a struggling economy.

During an announcement, the minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said the OQLF would be adding dozens of new employees and new offices throughout the province, including new inspectors to make sure small businesses are complying with the French Language Charter, known as Bill 101.