Nightclub owners in Hull's once-infamous entertainment district say a pending return to a later closing time won't bring back the crime and violence that once troubled the area.
Two decades ago the Hull bar strip was popular with patrons from Ottawa, where nightclubs closed at 1 a.m. Many would travel across the river to continue partying for an extra two hours.
But in 1997, faced with complaints from nearby residents about the excessive noise and violence that occurred when the bars emptied out after last call, politicians voted to move closing time in the Promenade to Portage area up to 2 a.m.
Much of the remaining inter-provincial business dried up when Ottawa also extended its bar hours until 2 a.m.
Eric Gaudreault, co-owner of Le Troquet bar and bistro on Laval Street, said he doubts an extra hour is going to bring those Ottawa customers back.
"I don't think that one hour will be worth it for them to jump into their car and come over here," said Gaudreault "Times have changed and there are more bars in Ottawa than in Gatineau."
Bar district 'needs a bit of help'
Gaudreault said the bar strip in the Hull sector is a shadow of what it was in the late 1990s.
"For the reputation of the nightlife in Gatineau in downtown, it needs a bit of help," he said.
He and other owners in the area believe it's unfair that bars in Gatineau's other sectors have been able to stay open until 3 a.m. while their businesses have had to close earlier.
The club owners in the Hull sector have the support of Hull-Wright Coun. Cédric Tessier, who has pledged to vote in favour of a one-year pilot project to extend the closing hours at an upcoming meeting of Gatineau city council.
According to Tessier, calls to police about violence and other rowdy behaviour outside bars in Hull have dropped significantly.
"Now everything goes well here in the downtown," Tessier said. "There's no violence and no problems."
If complaints spike again during the trial, then it's back to a 2 a.m. closing time, Tessier said.
"The first priority for us is to make sure that the violence that we saw in the 90s doesn't begin again in Hull."
Bar owners want to see the change in place by May or June, in time for what they hope will be a busier summer season.