Montreal restaurant owners are demanding answers from the Legault government after finding out they’ll have to keep their doors closed for at least another 28 days.
They feel the government is not being clear enough about why restaurants are being targeted in these COVID-19 restrictions and what needs to happen for them to reopen.
They say they’re being unfairly penalized for the bad behaviour of a select few.
Memories of a bustling lunch rush at Bistro Nolah in Dollard-des-Ormeaux are becoming increasingly distant for co-owners Richard Taitt and Chris Eamer. They didn’t expect Premier Legault would give them the green light to open in his Monday evening press conference, but hearing no customers would be allowed to eat inside the restaurant for 28 more days still stung.
“Just give us the hardcore reality of what the situation is. Stop playing this game of 28 days,” said Taitt.
Down the 40 West at Cunninghams in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, owner Jim Beauchamp saw the bad news coming, too.
“The only surprise is how how badly they’re treating the restaurants,” he told Global News.
Some restaurants were caught not respecting the COVID-19 rules when they were allowed to open over the summer.
But like countless others, Nolah and Cunninghams implemented stringent sanitary measures when they were allowed to reopen the first time.
“We had everything spaced out here, exactly what they said, and they still closed us down,” said Nolah Co-Owner Chris Eamer. “So that’s where I find it frustrating. They’re punishing everybody for a few people who are not being disciplined.”
Beauchamp agrees only establishments that flout the rules should be penalized by the government.
“Don’t pull the licence of 25,000 restaurants in Quebec. That doesn’t make any sense at all,” the Cunnighams owner said.
Taitt wonders why people are allowed to go to sit with a hairdresser for an hour or more but cant go eat at a restaurant.
“The frustrating thing here is there’s really there’s no consistency,” he said.
They’re far from the only restauranteurs criticizing the government after Monday’s announcement. On social media, Derek Dammann of the renowned Maison Publique accused the government of leaving them closed without data to support the decision.
Fred Morin of Joe Beef jokingly wondered if the government is asking a Ouija board when to open restaurants.
“Don’t just take the low-hanging fruit from the bottom of the tree and make your government look good by shutting down restaurants,” said Beauchamp.
On Monday, Francois Legault was vague when asked what the COVID-19 numbers need to look like for restaurants to reopen, saying it all depends how cases, hospitalizations and deaths evolve, without giving a specific target.
Global News asked the health ministry what the statistical criteria would need to be for restaurants to re-open, but did not receive an answer by deadline
Taitt said he doesn’t expect restaurants to be allowed to open before February 2021.
In spite of a 70-per cent drop in revenue, Nolah will try to survive on delivery, takeout, and the government aid programs they say amount to them taking on more and more debt.
“The industry is hurting,” said Taitt. “It employs a lot of people. And it’s not only us. It’s about my fish supplier. It’s about my veg supplier. It’s about my dry goods supplier. It’s about the girl who makes micro greens for herself, for us to serve on our plates. She’s dying.
“It’s a chain. It’s a chain reaction of events.”