Hull bars renew battle to stay open until 3 a.m.

Hull sector bar and club owners say they want to reverse a 20-year-old bylaw that has them closing by 2 a.m. despite bars in the rest of the city and province staying open an extra hour.

For 20 years, Hull bars and clubs have had to close an hour earlier than the rest of the province

The strip in Old Hull was once overrun with early morning partiers who flooded the area from bars in Ottawa that would close earlier in the night. Since the 1990s, Hull is the only jurisdiction in all of Quebec that requires bars and clubs to close by 2 a.m. (Radio-Canada)

Ottawans of a certain vintage will remember when bar-goers would spill out of this city's nightclubs at 1 a.m. and make a run across the river, where Hull's drinking establishments beckoned with an extra two hours of early-morning partying.  

Residents of what is now central Gatineau grew weary of the noise and violence however, so politicians voted in January 1997 to have clubs and bars in Hull close at the same time as their Ottawa counterparts.

CBC's 1997 story on the decision to close Hull bars early. 1:27

That still irks many Hull club owners who feel tainted by the transgressions of former club owners and by a city council that allowed too many bars on a small commercial strip.

"It sends a bad message to the rest of the province, to the people who come and visit us," said Eric Gaudreault, owner of Le Troquet bar and bistro.

"All this summer with all the tourists we had, we had to tell them we close earlier because 20 years ago, the city didn't do their job and put too many bar permits in the same spot."

That was a 1990 problem and now we're in 2017.- Eric Gaudreault of Le Troquet

In an interview with Hallie Cotnam on Ottawa Morning, Gaudreault said Hull needs to get back in step with the rest of the city — and the province. 

"That was a 1990 problem and now we're in 2017. So I think the problem is solved and we need to move on to our regular hours," said Gaudreault.

"It's a question of mentality. If you say we have to close here early, what you're implying is that there's a problem. That there's a violence problem. That it's dangerous to be there."

Changing dynamic

Gaudreault is also concerned that with nearby redevelopment of LeBreton Flats and the new Zibi community, Hull will be left at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding neighbourhoods. 

"Competition is just getting harder and harder. So we need to let people know it's a safe place and you can come have fun and it's like everywhere else in Quebec, it's going to close at three o'clock," he said.

According to Gaudreault, bar and club owners in Hull have been very accommodating and patient for years, and could have just challenged the closing hours in court.

Instead, he said, they're hoping to come to an agreement with local politicians in an election year.

Not the first try

Business owners have made their case in previous years, but to no avail.

Outgoing Hull-Wright councillor Denise Laferrière has concerns about going back to a 3 a.m. closing time.

"If you extend the hours until 3 a.m., you're going to have people who are already drunk coming to this part of the city. This will bring more police to the downtown core," she said in a phone interview.

"There was a specific patrol in the 90s and it cost the city of Hull a lot of money, there were eight to 10 police that were only doing that, trying to keep the people quiet. It was impossible."

Laferrière did say the bars are smaller now and she would be OK with the new city council launching a pilot project with a later closing time to see how it goes.