Some Outaouais restaurants were left scrambling on New Year's Eve after being given little more than 24 hours to prepare for the province's new COVID-19 rules — which include a 10 p.m. curfew and a full shutdown of dining rooms.
At L'Aubergiste Resto Bistro in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau, Que., owner Veronique Plourde said she was fully booked for the night and that much of the food and wine she ordered will go to waste.
"For sure I cried a lot," Plourde said.
"But ... we have no choice but to deal with that, so it's not really an option to be mad for forever," she added. "We're just going to deal with it and survive."
Quebec has once again imposed an overnight curfew in an effort to curb the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, while also shutting down restaurant dining rooms, delaying the reopening of schools and closing non-essential businesses on Sundays.
The changes went into effect on New Year's Eve at 5 p.m.
Plourde said her chef had originally prepared a five-course meal for patrons to ring in the new year, but about a month ago she started to sense new restrictions were on the horizon.
So she stuck with the original menu and offered takeout options.
The previous 50 per cent capacity limit had hit hardest, Plourde said — and she's now disappointed that restaurants will have to close their dining rooms entirely.
"I saw it coming, and unfortunately my intuition was correct," she said.
Calls for solidarity
The new restrictions are "a lot to swallow," said Gatineau Chamber of Commerce head Stefan Psenak.
Psenak is asking people to show solidarity with the city's businesses and to buy local whenever possible. He's also calling on all levels of government to reimplement various support systems.
"This wave is going to hurt more than all the others, I believe," he said.
"We're really tired, as restaurateurs, to be the 'big bads' of COVID." - L'Aubergiste Resto Bistro owner Veronique Plourde
It's not the first time Quebecers have dealt with a curfew: last January, they were told to stay in their homes as of 8 p.m., two hours earlier than the current rule.
While it was later pushed back to after 9 p.m., Quebecers were under curfew rules for roughly five months in 2021.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit's medical officer of health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, said Friday that he's not too worried about Quebecers flocking to Ontario to avoid the curfew as new Ontario rules require restaurants to close their doors by 11 p.m.
"There's not [a lot of] extra time here. We have limits as well," Roumeliotis said.
Quebecers who do not have a valid reason for being out of their homes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. risk a fine of between $1,000 and $6,000, Premier François Legault has said.
As for Plourde, she said she's received a tremendous amount of support from her patrons — and that buying a gift card to a restaurant, or even just calling to check in, goes a long way.
"We're tired," she said. "We're really tired, as restaurateurs, to be the 'big bads' of COVID."