Quebec to reopen restaurant dining rooms next week, allow small private gatherings


Published January 25, 2022 at 2:55 pm

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault announced Tuesday that restaurant dining rooms in the province will be able to reopen next week as part of a gradual easing of COVID-19 measures that have been in place since December.

“I told you last week that we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Legault told a news conference in Montreal. “I think we can say today that we are out of the tunnel.”

He cautioned, however, that the province’s health system is “in rough shape” and it will take time to build the hospital capacity the province needs.

As of Monday, restaurants in Quebec will be able to welcome diners, with capacity limited to 50 per cent and no more than four people from different households at a table.

The premier said restrictions on private gatherings will also be loosened, with gatherings of up to four people, or two family bubbles, permitted. Also beginning Monday, school and youth sports will be allowed to resume.

“We are all aware that a lot of Quebecers are fed up, they’re fed up with the restrictions,” Legault said. “It’s been 22 months. I understand that there are a lot of Quebecers for whom it’s starting to affect their mental health.”

The government approach is to go “gradually, carefully,” he said, announcing that beginning Feb. 7, entertainment and sports venues will be allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity, with attendance capped at 500 people.

Quebec reported 85 more deaths linked to COVID-19 and a slight drop in hospitalizations on Tuesday.

Legault has been facing pressure to ease restrictions from sports organizations, the cultural sector and restaurants, and some business owners have threatened to reopen regardless of the rules. Gyms, bars and entertainment venues have been closed since December, as have restaurant dining rooms. Private gatherings have also been limited to members of the same household.

Some restaurant and bar owners have been considering reopening in protest at the end of the month, while police in Jonquière, Que., in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, were called last week to a bakery that had reopened its dining room.

At least one Montreal-area restaurant owner is no longer willing to wait for the official green light.

Humza Chaudhry, co-owner of breakfast and lunch restaurant Baba & Zazu in the Mount Royal neighbourhood, said he reopened his dining room a few days ago and no longer worries about the consequences. 

“Enough is enough. We’re done with it,” he said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Everything is open, if we don’t open we’ll go underwater.”

Chaudhry says he’s opening his dining room to full capacity. He said that even if an official reopening is coming, he needed time to train his kitchen and floor staff and prepare them both physically and mentally for a return to work.

“It’s not like a switch that turns on and off,” he said.

The response from customers, he said, has been positive. “They feel like they’re getting out of prison.”

Meanwhile, Quebec reported a 21-patient drop in hospitalizations linked to COVID-19. The Health Department said 3,278 patients were in hospital after 272 people were admitted in the previous 24 hours and 293 were checked out. The number of people in intensive care remained unchanged at 263.

Quebec also reported 2,977 new cases of COVID-19, but officials say the number isn’t representative of the situation because testing is limited to high-priority groups.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2022.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising