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Apt 200
Photograph: Apt 200 / @3643StLaurentApt200

Montreal bar owners react to new COVID-19 measures: "Closing the bars is not the solution."

A new salvo of measures have been laid against bars across Quebec following a virus flare-up this past weekend and bar owners aren't happy.

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki

On Friday June 9, bars both in Montreal and across the province were given a new closing time of 1am—2 hours less than the previous closing time of 3am—in addition to being told that they could only serve at half capacity, dancing would be forbidden and that patrons would have to remain seated throughout service.

All of this was in response to a flare-up of COVID-19 cases from Dix30's Mile Public House in Brossard, in addition to parties along on Montreal's South Shore; other bars such as the McKibbin's pub location in the West Island and the newly-opened Mineral Bar in the Gay Village have also joined the names of bars which have experience cases.

Anecdotal reports on different social media platforms such as Reddit, Facebook and Instagram have been riddled with instances of public shaming of bars for their mismanagement of groups and crowds prior to last weekend, with Canada Day weekend seeing call-outs such as this one at Marché des Éclusiers.

That means the grip is tightening on bars to control their staff and clientele, but bar owners are none too plussed about the situation. Zach Macklovitch—a co-owner of bars such as Apt 200, Suwu and the nightclub École Privée—has previously bemoaned in Instagram stories that bar owners are being given little more than "1 day notice to re-open allowing all of our landlords to press (business owners) for rent" and that the rules regarding precautionary measures around operating are "poorly written and contradictory".

Macklovitch is one of many bar owners who feel that bar owners are being singled out in the province following this past weekend's new surrounding outbreaks, but many others are ready and willing to cooperate. An open letter was published on July 12 and signed by nearly two dozens bar owners and operators to address Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's Director of Public Health.

Above all else, the signatories of this letter appear to be reassuring the director that they intend to comply with all of the new directives that have since come out of last weekend's new measures, but notes that an outright closing of their businesses : "...We understand that it is by respecting these rules that we will eventually be able to enjoy greater freedom," the letter reads, but above all notes that "closing the bars is not the solution."

These new measures are to be enforced by an increased police presence which would ticket business owners for any infractions regarding guidelines such as closing times or the conduct of staff and patrons.

Meanwhile, many bars are taking it open themselves to enact their own form of contact tracing, where names, email addresses and phone numbers are being taken at registries, and that reservation systems are being put into place.

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