Excited about terrasse season in Montreal? Don't get your hopes up just yet

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante wants to open bar and restaurant terrasses by June 1 if public health measures permit, but her Thursday announcement was quickly met with pushback by the province’s health minister.

While Montreal's mayor wants them open by June 1, Quebec's health minister urges caution

Outdoor terrasses have become a favourite pastime for Montrealers over the years, but the annual tradition has not been given the green light just yet. (Raphaël Thibodeau/Radio-Canada)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante wants bar and restaurant terrasses to open by June 1 if public health guidelines permit, but her Thursday announcement was quickly met with pushback by the province's health minister.

Christian Dubé said municipal politicians should "stay calm" and wait for Quebec's plan to reopen the economy before making such announcements.

"I know people are fed up. I know people are excited for the terrasses to reopen. We are aware of that, but we must stay prudent," he said.

While a terrace is usually the English term used to describe patios or platforms next to buildings, "terrasse" is Quebec's colloquial word for any kind of outdoor dining or drinking area for restaurants, cafés and bars.

The health minister said the province will soon release its step-by-step plan to gradually scale back public health measures.

Rather than focusing on one restriction, like terrasses, he said municipal leaders should wait for the global reopening plan to be released.

WATCH | Quebec health minister warns against planning too early: 

Quebec health minister tells municipal politicians to wait for economic reopening plan

CBC News Montreal

1 month ago
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé explains why it's too early to say whether things like terrasses will be allowed to open. 1:03

However, Dubé declined to say when that plan will be ready.

He blamed Plante's urgency to reopen the city's beloved terrasses on the upcoming election.

"Mayor Plante isn't alone in the sense that many politicians are in an election year," said Dubé, noting that several politicians have been asking about the plan to reopen the economy.

Plante refuses to 'stay calm' in the face of distress

Plante fired back on Twitter shortly after the health minister's remarks. She said restaurateurs and bar owners have been suffering for a year.

"I will neither fold my arms, nor 'stay calm' in the face of their distress," she said.

Plante said her administration will be providing details on Friday about its plan to support the bar and restaurant industry "which is so important to Montreal."

"I think we have to hear the heartfelt cry of restaurateurs and bars that want to reopen," Plante said.

Plante said it is important to adapt to the public health situation, and it is fragile in Montreal at the moment.

Montreal public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin said last week that maintaining health measures is essential to keeping the situation under control.

"The success we are currently experiencing is due to this balance of measures," she told Radio-Canada.

Terrasses in the plans for months

Montreal allowed terrasses last summer. Now, as the city looks toward a second summer under the confines of a pandemic that just doesn't seem to let up, municipal officials and business owners have been looking for ways to make it bearable.

Terrasses figure prominently in that equation, as the annual tradition blocking of sidewalks and even entire streets to add a colourful array of makeshift patios and decks has become a defining feature of summertime in Montreal.

Boroughs, local business associations and the City of Montreal are working on plans to pedestrianize several arteries for the summer. 

Plante's office said back in March that business owners are the catalysts of this summer's projects, but clearly terrasses have been in the plans for some time.

Many boroughs are already planning to offer permits for on-street terrasses at rates far under the usual thousands of dollars they charge — a concept introduced last year to help restaurant, bar and café owners through the pandemic. 

In Ville-Marie, Plateau-Mont-Royal, Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie, Sud-Ouest, Outremont, Lachine, Verdun, and Ahuntsic—Cartierville, permits will cost $50 or less.

Glenn Castanheira, the executive director of downtown Montreal's merchants' association, is counting on terrasses.

"For months, people have been going for walks in the forest," he said back in March. "This summer, we want them to walk in an urban forest. We want to create traffic and fill the terrasses."

with files from Radio-Canada

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