Quebec bar owners call on province to allow them to reopen to vaccinated patrons

·2 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec bar owners are calling on the government to allow them to reopen for patrons who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Two associations representing bar owners wrote to Premier François Legault in a letter dated Thursday to say modifying the public health order that has closed bars since October would bring some much-needed reprieve for the hard-hit sector.

They also suggested that allowing partially vaccinated people access to bars would help encourage vaccine-hesitant Quebecers to get a shot.

Peter Sergakis, president of one of the groups that wrote to the premier, Union des tenanciers de bars du Québec, said as more Quebecers become eligible to get vaccinated, bars will be able to slowly grow their clientele.

"I think it'll be a great solution for everybody and we've got to open the bars and restaurants," he said in an interview Friday. "We have to start somehow; we cannot stay closed any longer."

Sergakis, who owns several bars and restaurants in the Montreal area, said the idea is to have patrons show proof of vaccination at the door.

"Any additional requirements public health wants, we will comply to those too," Sergakis said. "We're ready to do anything to secure the employees and secure our customers."

Sergakis and Renaud Poulin, head of Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec, said they had sent a letter to the premier in March that went unanswered.

A spokesperson for the Health Department said in an email Friday it was too early for the government to discuss how proof of vaccination would be used in the province.

On Thursday, Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters the government is looking at digitizing Quebecers' vaccination records. He said he would let public health experts study the ethical questions surrounding the use of so-called vaccine passports and how they could be used in the province.

"The global application of that, we will rely on the recommendations of public health, which will be made by experts," Dubé said.

As of Friday, about 35.7 per cent of adult Quebecers had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine; the province said it administered 63,145 doses in the past 24 hours.

Also on Friday, Quebecers 50 to 59 became eligible to book a vaccination appointment, with 75,000 booked by 10 a.m. The government has said all adults will be able to book an appointment by mid-May.

Quebec reported 1,041 new COVID-19 cases Friday and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 31, to 592, and 164 people were in intensive care, a drop of one. The province has 9,673 active reported cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press