When the owners of Bistro Nolah, look around their empty dining room, they can’t help but think of what it used to look like at this time last year.
“This was full almost every night — every night was a Saturday night for us,” said co-owner Chris Eamer.
“We probably had our best year ever, and now it’s a shadow of its former self.”
The restaurant, in Montreal’s West Island, is offering takeout and delivery, but it thrives on its dining room experience.
Sales are down between 60 and 70 per cent, and the restaurant doesn’t have hope that it’ll be able to open at least until the spring.
“It’s hard to believe when they tell you that this is where people will catch it, when I go to Costco and see 1,500 to 2,000 people in there,” said Richard Taitt, co-owner and chef. “How is that acceptable?”
According to a recent survey conducted by Restaurants Canada, 48 per cent of small and medium-sized independent restaurants will permanently close within six months if they cannot reopen and if loan programs wear off.
On top of that, 80 per cent of restaurants are either losing money or barely scraping by, and 10 per cent of them have already closed for good.
In Quebec, the majority of restaurant dining rooms are closed and are not expected to reopen until at least Jan. 11.
“Right now, public health authorities are asking us still to let restaurants closed because they consider restaurants present a risk of transmission of the virus,” said Quebec Premier Francois Legault.
But Restaurants Canada is asking for proof.
“What we ask the government is to show us the data that clearly demonstrates scientifically that restaurants are a problem in terms of community transmission, because so far, no one has been able to show that to us, either in Quebec or other provinces,” said David Lefebvre, the group’s vice-president.
The association is also calling for the federal government to create a task group that would include their members and public officials, in order to discuss how to relaunch their industry.