Provided that restaurants follow public health directives, restaurants in Quebec will be able to begin reopening on June 15, with the Greater Montreal area, the Joliette MRC and L'Épiphanie following on June 22.
Today, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food André Lamontagne and the Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Solidarity Jean Boulet announced the plan for reopening restaurants, and that people may not gather indoors so long as they are dining in groups of no more than 10 from a maximum of 3 households. It's a continuation of the Quebec government's deconfinement plan that was released on May 25, demonstrating that the province is gradually carrying out Phase 6 of its plan.
Placing emphasis on safety during this reopening, "everyone must come together to ensure the safety of workers and clients," said Minister Jean Boulet. "Take advantage of this to eat locally."
As for what restaurants will look like when they reopen? Short of them being released officially, strict hygiene and social distancing protocols from the CNESST and public health authorities are to be put in place—along with consultation from the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ)—will need to be followed both on outdoor terrasses and indoors.
Some of the possible restrictions include the following: As it was established for outdoor gatherings, diners can expect to have their group sizes to be limited to no more than 10 and come from no more than 3 households, that disinfectants and sanitizer dispensers will be in place at entrances, and plexiglass will be erected at the cash to limit contact. Only one person can access the bathrooms at a time.
As for menus, it's recommended that handheld versions are discontinued in favour of writing on paper tablecloths, or displaying menus on TVs or blackboards to minimize contact through shared equipment; the same applies to objects that are touched frequently such as doorknobs and countertops.
Buffets will be able to open, but only when employees are able to serve customers who will not be able to touch the food.
Restaurateurs will need provide protective equipment to their employees both on the floor and in the kitchen; employees must not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19; servers will have to wear a mask, and to use face protection when social distancing with customers cannot occur within a restaurant's space.
The news comes as good news to an industry that is the source of billions of dollars of revenue for the province, and an employer of hundreds of thousands of Quebecers. It's especially good news for restaurateurs who have been facing dwindling revenues and outright closures of their businesses since the province demanded that all restaurants shutter their businesses to in-person services on March 15. That move left many to flip operations previously not designed for takeout and delivery into contactless dining options, all of which was proving detrimental to the hospitality industry as many wondered when restaurants would reopen.
While it's good news for restaurants, the reopening date for bars remains undetermined until announcements are made.
"We hope bars will reopen as well, but there's a difference between bars where people are close to one another (and restaurants)," Legault said when questioned during an earlier conference about restaurants' ability to sell alcohol earlier in the day. "I'm not saying bars won't open eventually," added Horacio Arruda, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Health and Social Services during that earlier conference with Legault, who noted that bars are different from restaurants because of the degree of socialization that occurs.
This phase has also included the reopening of outdoor sports and activities and audiovisual and postproduction services (TV, music, radio and so forth) in Quebec, meaning that only the second phase of Quebec's shopping centres—those in Montreal and Joliette—remain left to open in Phase 6.
Canada is showing signs that the spread of the virus has been slowing down, but it's not over: The most recent data on COVID-19 in Quebec from the provincial government shows 198 new cases in the last 24 hours, which brings the total number of infections to 53,047. During this same 24-hour period, 6 new deaths were recorded, which brings the count of the deceased in the province to a total of 4,984. Hospitalizations increased by 7 to reach a total of 979.
Time Out Montreal will update this story as it develops.