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COVID-19: Quebec to allow bars to stay open later as Montreal Canadiens prepare for late playoff games

Click to play video: 'NHL Playoff Preview: Montreal Canadiens – Vegas Golden Knights' NHL Playoff Preview: Montreal Canadiens – Vegas Golden Knights
Coming into the NHL’s semi-finals, the Montreal Canadiens are riding a hot streak having won their last seven games after falling behind 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1. The Vegas Golden Knights are also on a bit of a hot streak winning their last four games after falling behind 2-0 to the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2. Look for goaltenders Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury to duel it out as both puck stoppers have been on the top of their game through the first two rounds. Also of note will the individual performances of Max Pacioretty and Nick Suzuki who three years ago were traded for each other in a multi-player deal. – Jun 14, 2021

Quebec will allow bars to serve alcohol until midnight and stay open until 2 a.m., the province’s Health Department said Monday.

Bar owners had called for the province to allow them to stay open later as the Montreal Canadiens begin a playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night, which will see some games start at 9 p.m.

Quebec’s COVID-19 regulations had previously included an 11 p.m. last call and a requirement that all patrons be out of the establishment by midnight.

“I’m not complaining,” said Ziggy Eichenbaum, the owner of Ziggy’s Pub in downtown Montreal. “I’ll take anything.”

He said if the rule hadn’t been changed, there was a risk the late start games could have continued past closing time.

“I can’t throw people out in overtime,” Eichenbaum said in an interview Monday. “I’m going to ask everybody to leave, I’ll have a riot.”

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READ MORE: Quebec-Ontario border to reopen to non-essential travel as of Wednesday

Bars across Quebec were allowed to reopen for indoor service on Monday, as regions that had been orange zones on the province’s pandemic alert system were downgraded to yellow. Bar patios in those regions were allowed to reopen on Friday. In some parts of the province, including Montreal, bars had been closed since the end of September.

The later closing time, which goes into effect on Monday, also applies to restaurants.

La Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec, a bar owners association, had been calling for a midnight last call and to be able to stay open until 2 a.m. when the Habs were playing, Renaud Poulin, the group’s CEO said in an interview on Monday, before the rule change.

The new rules are not specific to nights when there are hockey games. Other restrictions, including bans on dancing and karaoke, remain in effect.

Poulin, who is also the owner of Resto Bar La Chope in Chateauguay, Que., south of Montreal, said he was worried Monday night’s game will start late and that fans could find themselves having to leave a close game when there’s still five to 10 minutes left in the third period.

Even before the closing time change, bar owners said they were happy to be open.

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“We’re in the semifinals, the Canadiens are in and we ain’t complaining about anything. Whatever we can get, we’ll be happy with that,” Eichenbaum said.

Click to play video: 'Call of the Wilde!' Call of the Wilde!
Call of the Wilde! – Jun 11, 2021

Earlier on Monday, Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters that discussions are ongoing with public health about allowing more fans to attend home games in person. Nearly 18,000 fans will be allowed to attend games in Las Vegas, compared to 2,500 fans in Montreal.

Dubé said public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda is being prudent. “The United States should not be our benchmark,” he added.

Read more: Montreal Canadiens hoping to score Bell Centre crowd increase for Round 3

Quebec reported 123 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, a ninth consecutive day with fewer than 200 new infections.

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Authorities reported one additional death linked to the disease Monday, which took place within the preceding 24 hours.

The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations declined by one from the day before, to 214, and 54 people are in intensive care, a decline of four.

The province reported 75,533 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered yesterday. Sunday was the fifth consecutive day that the number of second doses administered in the province was higher than the number of first doses, according to data from the province’s public health institute.

According to the Institut national de santé publique du Quebec, 78.8 per cent of Quebecers over 12 have now received at least one dose and 13.2 per cent of all residents are adequately vaccinated.

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