Notre-Dame Street merchants reach construction compromise with Sud-Ouest borough

Some Montreal merchants who were upset about planned water main repair work on a stretch of Notre-Dame Street West in Little Burgundy, are hoping their summer terrasse season can be salvaged, now that the Sud-Ouest borough has tweaked its schedule to wrap construction a bit early.

Construction that would hamper terrasse season will wrap before end of June, instead of July

Toby Lyle, a co-owner of Burgundy Lion Pub on Notre-Dame Street, seen here in a photo from July 2020. He's hoping this summer's terrasse season can be salvaged, now that the borough is agreeing to finish major water main work before the end of June. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Some Montreal merchants who were upset about major upcoming repair work on a stretch of Notre-Dame Street West in Little Burgundy, are hoping their summer terrasse season can be salvaged.

This comes as the Sud-Ouest borough has tweaked its schedule to wrap construction a bit early.

Work to fix the street's 100-year-old water main between Vinet and Atwater Streets will begin as planned in mid-April, but will end before the end of June, instead of stretching into July. 

Toby Lyle, co-owner and founder of the Burgundy Lion Group, is happy to have come to a compromise with the borough.

"Once the city got the pressure and started working on it, they were very good, I have to admit," he said. 

Lyle agrees the work is necessary, as the water main has already burst in the past, leading to flooding. The borough considers the main to be in "critical condition."

But he said after weathering two summers under COVID-19 restrictions, bars and restaurants were looking forward to the street coming alive again, and were caught off guard by the borough's plans.

"That was what made the timing so terrible. What we've gone through in the last two years has been a challenge to say the least," he said. "Just when we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we got this news." 

In time for Grand Prix

While he said the timing is still not ideal, bars and restaurants will now only lose about two or three weeks of prime terrasse weather, as outdoor dining doesn't pick up much until the end of May.

Lyle said he was told that, barring workers uncovering an unexpected issue once they open up the street, the work will be done on June 13, just in time for Grand Prix weekend — a major draw for many tourists. 

But Massimo Lecas, owner of Fiorellino restaurant, is skeptical that the work will be done in time.

"Obviously experience and history tells us that it's very, very, very difficult to respect deadlines when it comes to construction," he said. 

Sud-Ouest Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais posted a photo of flooding from a water main break on Nov. 3, 2021, as he explained why repair work is so urgently-needed on the 100-year-old pipes under Notre-Dame Street West . (Benoit Dorais/Facebook)

If construction does go long, Lecas would like to see the city agree to stop construction, no matter what stage they've reached, in time for the Grand Prix, and resume in September. 

The borough said it would keep "good communication" with business owners and residents "before, during and after the work" to keep nuisances from construction to a minimum.

Lyle said customers have started to return, but adds that having a terrasse unencumbered by construction will be important this summer, as some customers are still more comfortable being outside, due to the pandemic. 

Circus events & street fest 

To attract more people to the area this summer, the borough said it's also organizing activities at nearby Vinet park, as part of the circus festival Montréal Complétement Cirque from July 7-17. 

The installations will include a nearly 150-square-metre stage and a 15-metre metal sculpture. 

"One of the objectives of this project is to participate in the economic revitalization of commercial arteries," the borough said, in a statement. 

Massimo Lecas, co-owner of Fiorellino snack bar and restaurant on Notre-Dame Street West, would like to see more variety in the types of events the city proposes to draw business to the area. (CBC/Chloe Ranaldi)

Lecas said he'd like to see more ideas from the city beyond "clowns and twisting balloons and painted faces" to promote different types of events in the neighbourhood. 

Lyle said while the circus event is likely to be more focused on families, "it's always great to have more energy and more things going on in the borough."

He's happy officials seem keen to let merchants hold a street festival, something he's wanted to do for the past 14 years, to highlight Notre-Dame Street in Little Burgundy as a "hot spot for bars and restaurants."

"St-Laurent and Crescent have had street fests for years and years," he said. "We'd like to be able to do more stuff like that. We'd like to have events. We'd like to be able to close the street down when we want to do something."

The dates and details have yet to be confirmed, but Lyle said he would work with other merchants to find the best time for a celebration, after the construction is complete.

With files from Shuyee Lee