Quebec’s curfew — in place since Jan. 9 — lifted as of 5 a.m. Friday as the province began relaxing measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The curfew was originally set at 8 p.m. and more recently had been moved to 9:30 p.m., with violators subject to fines starting at $1,000 plus $550 in additional fees.
Restaurant patios also reopened on Friday after being closed in some parts of the province, including Montreal, since Oct. 1.
That moment couldn’t come soon enough for restaurant owners and patrons alike.
“It’s been eight months,” said Toby Lyle, co-owner of the Burgundy Lion Group which operates several British-style eateries in Montreal.
“We’re not waiting another second, we’re ready to go.”
Despite an unseasonable chill in the air, Montrealers flocked to their favourite haunts bright and early some donning touques and gloves, ready to celebrate.
“I’m used to sticking it out in cold weather when it’s something worth it,” said Oliver Walerys sitting at an outdoor table at the Burgundy Lion Pub.
The excitement was palpable as tables filled up.
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“It’s so much fun being on a patio enjoying a meal,” chimed in Patrick Langlois.
But that’s not the only reason he decided to eat out.
“Restaurant owners really need the support, not only today but every other day of the week as well,” he said.
Lyle agreed, because while patios have reopened, indoor dining remains off limits in most of the province.
“It isn’t enough we have about 55 to 60 people but we need to get inside sooner rather than later,” he said. “Or it’s going to be an issue.”
Dining rooms are scheduled to reopen in the province’s orange zones on Monday.
Montreal and Laval, however, which remain at the highest alert levels under Quebec’s colour-coded system, won’t be able reopen dining rooms until June 7, at the earliest.
Despite remaining restrictions, there was room for optimism at Montreal’s busy terraces.
“I think we’re going to have an awesome summer,” said Geneviève Guertin, Pizzeria Geppetto co-owner.
As of Friday, outdoor gatherings of up to eight people on private property are allowed and large venues will be able to host up to 2,500 people, though they will have to be divided into sections of 250 people with separate entrances and washrooms.
The new measures come as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec have declined to their lowest level in more than six months.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines