Quebec bars and restaurants can operate at full capacity as of November 1

The Quebec government is reducing public health restrictions on bars and restaurants from November 1, allowing them to reach full capacity and halving the two-meter distance rule.

“The vaccination passport allows such flexibility in cases where the risk of transmission is higher,” said a statement released Thursday by the office of Minister of Health Christian Dubé.

“In other cases, minimum distancing and basic preventive measures are still essential. We are cautiously moving towards a return to normality, but caution is required.

Normal opening hours will also be allowed, meaning bars will again be able to stay open until 3 a.m., the statement said.

However, there will always be a cap on the number of people allowed at a table – 10 people from three different households.

If the distance of one meter cannot be reached between the tables, a barrier must be put in place.

Wearing a mask will remain compulsory when traveling in the establishment.

The ban on dancing, standing and singing will remain in effect, and the vaccination passport will still be required.

Regardless, François Michaud, co-owner of Le Graffiti restaurant in Quebec City, heaved a sigh of relief on Thursday.

“For us, any easing of measures is a breath of fresh air,” he said. “We need it. We can’t wait for this to end.”

Still, the industry faces a tough future after a difficult 18 months of intermittent public health measures and shutdowns as the provincial government struggles to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Now the rent subsidies are going to end and tourism hasn’t fully restarted, Michaud said, and now his restaurant is facing a 30-40% deficit.

“While the rent will remain the same, the cost of raw materials has increased,” he said. “The cost of labor has increased over the past six months by at least 30 percent in the kitchen.”

Capacity and seat restrictions have been a matter of contention across the province, according to the Nouvelle Association des Barreaux du Québec (NABQ), which called on the government to be consistent.

Last week, NABQ President Pierre Thibault said in a statement that it made little sense to allow 22,000 people to sit side by side in the Bell Center, “ten centimeters apart” .

“We should also allow restaurants and bars to accommodate the authorized capacity of their establishments and close at 3 a.m.,” he said.

Bars were limited to 50 percent of the maximum capacity provided for in their liquor license.

Bars and restaurants are currently allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. and bars must close before 2 a.m. under current rules.

Now that restrictions are easing, Thibault said Thursday, his group is optimistic.

“It is clear that the workforce is a problem, but I have the impression that things will get better under these conditions,” he told Radio-Canada.

“We struggled to keep the employees because it was short term and we couldn’t work full time. “

Joshua B. Speller