Moishes steakhouse leaves its storied home on The Main

Plans to move at the end of the year are on hold, and the restaurant will not reopen at its home of more than 80 years after shutting due to COVID-19.

Move to Victoria Square on hold with threat of second wave looming

The iconic Moishes logo is seen outside the restaurant on St-Laurent Boulevard, its home since the steakhouse opened in 1938. (CBC)

Moishes, the steakhouse that has been an institution on the Montreal dining scene for more than 80 years, is bidding adieu to its storied location on The Main.

The upscale restaurant on St-Laurent Boulevard, frequented by local and visiting celebrities and known for its warm, wood and brick interior and long, red curtains, did not reopen when dining rooms were permitted to do so earlier this summer.

With its lease set to expire at the end of the year, the plan had been to move to Victoria Square, where the restaurant's hours would be extended to include lunchtime service and be better located to serve the after-work crowd.

But since the pandemic leaves no guarantee that international tourists and office workers will return in large numbers downtown, all that is on hold, said corporate director Lenny Lighter.

He said the threat of what a second wave could do to the industry means it's not the right time to make the sizeable investment required to open the new location.

"It's my family, it's my legacy. But I'm sort of taking a positive view," said Lighter, whose father, Moishe, opened the restaurant in 1938.

The pandemic has caused many industries that rely on serving customers in person to rethink their business model.

Some restaurants, forced to reduce their seating to allow more space between customers, have opted to expand outdoor dining areas and pivot to takeout.

But those solutions aren't working for everyone. Another Montreal institution, Bar-B Barn, permanently closed its downtown location in June because its narrow rooms could not accommodate physical distancing. 

The restaurant was founded in 1938 by Moishe Lighter, a Romanian Jewish immigrant to Montreal. (Moishes)

Moishes was acquired by Sportscene Group in 2018, along with its trademarks, branding and retail products.

Moving to Victoria Square, a short walk to the Old Port and surrounded by hotels and office towers, was intended to give the business access to "different markets at different times of the day," said Lighter, who had brought in a younger crowd by extending the restaurant's hours to midnight with an "After 9" menu.

Now, the future location of the restaurant is being revised. Lighter says Montrealers will be able to mark a special occasion in their dining room once again, but for now, the timeline remains unclear.

"It's not the end of Moishes. It's a hiatus of sorts," he said.

With files from Kate McKenna


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