3 a.m. closing time for Hull bars on tap

Closing time at bars in the Hull sector of Gatineau could soon be pushed back to 3 a.m., at least on a trial basis.

Gatineau residents will be asked for input starting next week

Patrons line up to enter a Hull bar in 1989, when drinking establishments remained open until 3 a.m. The late closing time attracted plenty of customers from across the Ottawa River, where bars closed at 1 a.m. (The Canadian Press)

Closing time at bars in the Hull sector of Gatineau could soon be pushed back to 3 a.m., at least on a trial basis.

After promising back in January to extend hours at downtown bars and bistros, Gatineau city council will seek public input starting Dec. 19 to gauge whether there's an appetite for a pilot project, which could begin in the spring.

In 1997, following a steady stream of complaints from people living near Hull's infamous bar strip, city councillors rolled closing time up to 2 a.m., and there it has remained.

The move may have appeased neighbours, but business from Ottawa patrons making the cross-river trek to extend their night of partying soon dried up.

Today, nightclub owners in the Hull sector say that economic hangover from 20 years ago has long worn off. But that doesn't mean they're not eager to get the party started again.

Éric Gaudreault, who speaks for Hull bar owners, says it's time for the area to get its vibe back. (Radio-Canada)

'Killing the vibe'

"We've been really nice, we've let you have your fun for 20 years killing the vibe. Now let us have a little vibe and let us have a pilot project," Éric Gaudreault, who speaks for bar owners in the Hull sector, beseeched city councillors.

Gaudreault points out there are only about 10 bars in the Hull sector now, compared to more than 50 back in its heyday.

"It's a different time and we hardly ever see policemen at closing time because they don't have to be here because it's so controlled," he said.

Former Gatineau police officer Pierre Lanthier remembers the wild bar strip of yesteryear, when fights spilled out of the numerous bars and onto the streets. Now he's a Gatineau city councillor.

Coun. Pierre Lanthier believes it's only fair to allow downtown bars to stay open until 3 a.m., like bars elsewhere in Gatineau. (Radio-Canada)

"We'll have to look at it and make the good decision about it," he said.

Lanthier noted bars in other sectors of Gatineau, like the rest of Quebec, are allowed to stay open until 3 a.m., and said it's a matter of equity for downtown business owners.

Residents of Gatineau have until Jan. 15 to express their views online.