Montreal Gazette

Bars and restaurant­s living with uncertaint­y

- JACOB SEREBRIN

The co-owner of a downtown Montreal bar says it wasn't a surprise when Quebec Premier François Legault recently suggested the province's partial lockdown might be extended a second time.

“We honestly don't expect to be reopened before March,” Michelle Ayoub, co-owner of Turbo Haus, said in an interview Wednesday.

Ayoub said she doesn't mind staying closed until the spring — when she can serve patrons on the patio — but what she doesn't like is the “weird limbo of uncertaint­y.” Bars were ordered closed in socalled red zones on Oct. 1 for 28 days, but that order was extended until at least Nov. 23.

Ayoub said she worries that if she's allowed to reopen, she'll be forced to close again.

“It is frustratin­g, it's tough to feel so powerless,” Ayoub said. “How do I go about planning? How do I go about promoting? How do I go about doing all of our things when there's just so much uncertaint­y?”

She said she'd like the government to make a decision and stick to it.

“Stop flip-flopping,” she said. “Make a decision, let us reopen and let us keep going with the safety measures that we had throughout the summer and work from there, or keep it closed and put it out of our misery until the spring.”

On Tuesday, Legault suggested the restrictio­ns across Quebec's red zones — which have shut bars, restaurant dining rooms, gyms and entertainm­ent venues — would probably be extended until at least around Christmas.

Legault said his government wanted to maintain the lockdowns to keep the province's infection rate stable in order to allow family gatherings around the holidays.

Ayoub said the provincial government isn't entirely to blame for the uncertaint­y, but she said she feels bars have been treated like scapegoats.

Restaurant owners are also dealing with a high level of unpredicta­bility, Martin Vézina, spokesman for Quebec's restaurate­ur associatio­n, said Wednesday in an interview. Restaurant­s need to know in advance when they'll be allowed to reopen, he said, because they need to buy food and hire staff.

If restaurant­s in Quebec's largest cities are forced to remain closed, Vézina said, skilled workers such as chefs may find work in other industries, and Montreal might lose its reputation as a “gastronomi­c capital.”

Even after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Quebec's public health director has said it will be another nine to 18 months before the government removes all restrictio­ns.

Mask-wearing, for instance, is here to stay for a while, Dr. Horacio Arruda told reporters Tuesday, because he said it will take months for authoritie­s to distribute vaccines.

Even once vaccines are approved for adults, it will take longer before they are approved for children, said Dr. Christos Karatzios, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Montreal Children's Hospital.

It will be “probably another four months before vaccines start to get distribute­d around the world and six months before we have data about children — whether they can get vaccinated or not,” he said Tuesday.

Quebec reported 1,179 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 35 more deaths attributed to the novel coronaviru­s, eight of which had occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitaliz­ations increased by 14, to 652, and 100 people were in intensive care, the same number as the prior day.

 ?? ALLEN MCINNIS FILES ?? People wearing protective face masks walk past La Mémoire du Coeur at Ste-justine Hospital earlier this month.
ALLEN MCINNIS FILES People wearing protective face masks walk past La Mémoire du Coeur at Ste-justine Hospital earlier this month.

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