Outaouais restaurants fear for future as COVID-19 rules extended into new year

·2 min read

A pair of restaurant owners in western Quebec say they're frustrated by the province's decision to extend restrictions that will keep them closed into the new year.

Premier François Legault announced Thursday that restrictions in red zones will remain in place until Jan. 11, as the amount of COVID-19 cases in Quebec is still too high and there is too much pressure on the health system.

"I'm very disappointed, not surprised, but disappointed," said Manuela Teixeira, who owns four businesses in the Chelsea, Que., area, including the Chelsea Pub.

Teixeira echoed comments made by Gatineau, Que., Mayor Maxime-Pedneaud Jobin on Tuesday, arguing that years of neglect to the area's health system is the reason her region is in the red zone.

She worries that by the time the rules change, it may be too late for many small eateries.

"It's a tough business. The margins are very small. So the ones who were very lucrative in the past will survive," she said.

"But the ones that are, you know, small restaurants, the very special places, they will have trouble surviving this. And that's a shame, because that's what makes a community."

Regional approach needed, says brewery owner

The head of public health for the Outaouais said Wednesday that community spread was still too high in the region, which increases the risk of outbreaks among vulnerable populations.

Julien Flipot, who manages Les Brasseurs du Temps brewpub in Gatineau, said he's frustrated the Quebec and Ontario governments haven't come up with a co-ordinated approach to restrictions in the National Capital Region.

Ottawa's dining rooms were allowed to reopen when restrictions were loosened earlier in November, and Filpot estimates he's lost 80 per cent of his business since then to restaurants across the river.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

He said he's seen one business after another close.

"People here can't go to the restaurant in their own city, but they can do it just on the other side of the river. Like it's 10 minutes away. So people start to [lose] hope on reopening," he said.

"We have the chance of being able to sell beer, because we're a microbrewery … that's what keeps us alive. But a business that doesn't have that chance, I would say that they have … two, three, six months max."

Quebec's financial assistance program for businesses in red zones has also been extended until Jan. 11.