Montrealers flock to terrasses on first day of loosened restrictions
Some people came out to have breakfast on the newly reopened patios
When Michael Sanders woke up Friday morning, he saw on the news that the Burgundy Lion Pub had opened its patio for breakfast at 8 a.m.
He decided to seize the unexpected opportunity and head over for a bite and a brew.
"I came down for breakfast because it's time to get back to normal and enjoy," Sanders told CBC's Daybreak. "The beer was a bonus."
Like many restaurant enthusiasts, Sanders said the last eight months have been "a long haul" with indoor and outdoor dining prohibited in red zones.
With all patios — or terrasses, as they are known in Quebec — allowed to open across the province on Friday, Sanders said he expects there will be huge demand.
"I think the terrasses are going to be very busy," he said. "I just wanted to get early out of the gate."
For Alain Starosta, partner at Le Petit Italien restaurant in Outremont, Friday marked a hopeful beginning. Terrasse dining is back and a section of Bernard Street is closing to traffic.
The street becomes pedestrian from Wiseman to Bloomfield avenues until Oct. 31 and that means more space for restaurants to set up their outdoor tables and chairs.
Starosta said he was excited to start welcoming customers again.
"I've been waiting about eight months for this," he said. "Even though we're kind of prepared, it's still a challenge, but we'll be fine."
Starosta said with the street closed, there will be space for not just eating, but activities and play areas for kids.
In red zones, only outdoor dining is open and people can only share a table either with members of their household or as a maximum of two adults from different addresses. The adults may be accompanied by their children under the age of 18.
Indoor dining in orange zones, including Montreal's South Shore, is expected to reopen May 31.
At the Terrasse St-Ambroise in the Southwest borough, people were eager to enjoy a pint at the beer garden when it opened at noon.
"I love this terrasse," said patron Adam Van Sertima. "I have been the first person through the door every year for the past nine years."
Van Sertima told CBC that he's happy the neighbourhood spot has reopened.
"I'm fortunate to live two blocks from my favourite brew."
Alexis Fawcett, floor manager for the pub, said that everyone is in a good mood now that the terrasses are open.
"It just feels like a big weight has been lifted. It's just a big breath of fresh air," he said.
Fawcett added that while some restaurants have been struggling with staffing issues, Terrasse St-Ambroise has been lucky to keep most of its team together.
"We're just excited to be back. It's nice that so many people turned out," he said.
Despite the weather — a brisk 15 degrees — patrons like Leanna Gelston weren't deterred.
"Even though it's quite chilly out, having these beers outside in the sun just feels so good. I mean, we even have blankets out here," she said.
"Even if it is cold, there's nothing better than being outside on the first day."
Even Premier François Legault was out enjoying a terrasse with his wife, Isabelle Brais. He posted a photo of the two of them dining outdoors at Chez Lévêque, a restaurant on Laurier Street in Outremont.
As the two of them clinked glasses in the photo, the premier simply wrote, "Santé!"
Santé! <a href="https://t.co/VF7YGBhFP4">pic.twitter.com/VF7YGBhFP4</a>—@francoislegault
Legault wrote a lengthy message to Quebecers, which was published in full-page newspaper ads and on his Facebook page earlier in the day, thanking the public for putting up with such a long confinement in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"On this day which launches the gradual reopening of Quebec, I would like to thank the entire Quebec nation for all the efforts, sacrifices and solidarity of the past 15 months," he wrote.
"It's thanks to you that we got through this third wave that has been so devastating elsewhere."
Legault also reminded residents that the province is not out of the water yet, and everybody should continue to use caution to prevent further transmission. He also urged all who are eligible to get both doses of the vaccine to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With files from CBC Daybreak and Alison Northcott