Quebec reopening kicks off May 28 – Restaurants, bars to reopen

Quebec reopening

Premier François Legault was all smiles on Tuesday afternoon as he made a much anticipated announcement that Quebec reopening is poised by the end of May. Flanked by public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda and health minister Christian Dubé, Legault said as of May 28, the curfew will be lifted everywhere in the province and restaurants can open their terrasses. By May 31, the “vast majority” of Quebec regions will shift from the red Covid-alert level to orange. High school students will return to school full time and restaurants and gyms will be allowed to reopen with some restrictions. By June 14, bars will be permitted to fully re-open (bar terrasses by June 11). Team sports and at-home gatherings for those who are fully vaccinated are also on the horizon this summer. “This is a big day. A big step,” Legault said. 

What Montrealers need to know about heading back to restaurants
Quebec reopening kicks off May 28

Don’t jump for joy yet. The premier made a similar upbeat announcement prior to the Christmas holidays last year only to backtrack almost immediately afterward. Four days of holiday celebrations quickly morphed into none followed by a curfew in the new year that was supposed to last two weeks but which is still in place months later. Instead of loosening restrictions, stringent measures were put in place including arbitrary rules regarding purchases. Upon entering pharmacies swathed in bubble-wrap, perplexed shoppers discovered, for example, that they could buy hair dye because it was deemed “essential”, but lipstick was off-limits because it wasn’t essential.

Quebec reopening kicks off May 28

In response to the latest statement from Legault on new deconfinement measures, the Quebec Association of Restaurateurs (ARQ) reiterated what it has been saying all along: that in order to function effectively the hospitality sector needs predictability. Continual changes to the regulatory framework have compounded the difficulties wrought by the pandemic which has disproportionately affected small businesses. This is especially true in Montreal which has been under some form of lockdown and mask mandates for 14 months.

Many in the restaurant industry have wondered why people can eat on a less than sanitary bench in a public place, or a lunch room in a private business where there aren’t necessarily controls for social distancing, but not in a restaurant where strict health measures are in place. Hospital cafeterias have been open to patients, staff, and visitors during the pandemic while restaurants have been pretty much closed. How can it be safe to eat in a cafeteria in a hospital where Covid may be occurring, but not in a restaurant monitored by health inspectors?

The premier was cagey about whether Montreal would reopen on the same schedule as other regions saying that case counts would factor in the decision. Mayor Valérie Plante appears optimistic that Legault’s announcement will soon benefit Montreal. On Tuesday she tweeted, “This is good news for Montreal, its merchants and the lively daily life we love so much,” calling the announcement, “a breath of fresh air.”

In the vaccines vs.variants race that has defined the third wave we’ve been through #Popcorngate, watched politicians and civil servants flaunt their own rules, seen police powers enhanced, private security forces ramped up, observed creeping Internet censorship, for the most part been unable to worship, dine out, go to the theatre, or attend a hockey game. Funerals are in limbo and weddings have been drastically downsized or put off altogether. People have had to figure out how to work from home or come up with the cash to build a cabana – that is, those whose livelihoods haven’t been destroyed by the lockdown. We’ve watched videos on TikTok lampooning public health measures and witnessed growing manifestations of dissent in the streets.

However, hope springs eternal. Let’s hope case counts keep trending downward and Legault keeps his promise to all Quebecers to open up the province. This way, Montrealers can enjoy a more normal summer. 

By: Deborah Rankin – [email protected]

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