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No reservations and flips to takeout: Montreal bars and restaurants react to vaccine passports

Not every restaurateur and bar owner in Montreal has reacted the same way to the new, now-in-effect vaccine passports.

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki

The vaccine passport has officially gone into effect across the province in Quebec, and that means that restaurants will have to keep a close eye on all patrons coming through their doors for a meal.

A sudden shift in the rules has, like so many times in the past, resulted in many reactions from Montreal's restaurateurs. Many are following the rules, making them responsible for the monitoring of their clients and scanning the QR codes of anyone who walks through their doors.

A majority have been compliant on social media, from longstanding institutions like Tavern on the Square to new players like Projet Pilote simply stating that rules will be enforced at their businesses: Anyone who is over 13 years of age will be asked for their vaccine passport, and can also be asked for a piece of identity.

It's not happening without some begrudgement, however. Bar owners like Kevin Demers of El Pequeño, The Coldroom, and Parliament Pub & Parlour have made statements on their social media: "As much as I am against this sort of discrimination towards someone’s decision on getting a vaccine or not... businesses are required by law to check if you’re vaccinated before you enter the premises."

"Please don’t take it personally; please don’t say you're friends with the owner and make it harder on my team by not complying to the (Quebec government's) rules. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place here."

Others, however, have shifted their business operations. Mehul Patel of the Caribbean restaurant Le Jerk Spot in Saint-Henri posted a video stating that his restaurant would only do takeout as administration doesn't agree with the mandate. The restaurant's indoor dining space is being replaced with a grocery setup.

"We are forced to make these decisions... it's what we believe in. It's cray that I have to remove tables just so that I don't have to ID clients (who want to get) some jerk chicken," Patel states in the video, who is vaccinated himself but wants to support individual rights and freedoms. He says restaurants are 'willfully submitting' to the government's mandates.

In between compliance and outrage is one final development: getting rid of reservations.

Chef Martin Juneau of Pastaga and the owners of the dessert-forward wine bar Ratafia have done away with their reservation system. Between "record levels of no-shows" in restaurants and reservation systems already posing problems by not having vaccine passport verification part of them, it seems easier to do away with the system entirely, as per Ratafia's post below.

"I know what you're thinking," wrote Juneau in a post. "I don't want to stumble into a full dining room!" I know how you feel." The owner and chef, citing a trip to Prince Edward County, says that no restaurants he saw were booked, which (presumably) also inspired his decision.

"You will always have a table with us," he continued. "If it's longer than 15 minutes, we'll make you wait in the annex, with a cocktail. At worst, we'll text you as soon as it's ready."

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A post shared by Ratafia (@ratafiamontreal)

Meanwhile, takeout and drive-thru services for restaurants are exempted from the rules, but whether it's eating indoors or enjoying a terrasse while good weather lasts in Montreal, a vaccine passport will be required. 

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