Sergio Da Silva says there's nothing like playing a show in front a packed house at his downtown Montreal bar and live music venue. But with the current COVID-19 restrictions, he's still only performing in front of a few dozen people at a time.
"Nothing quite feels right, you don't get that same feeling as you would in a packed house with people who are having a good time," said the co-owner of Turbo Haüs.
As of Friday, show venues with assigned seating in Quebec, including cinemas, theatres and amphitheatres were allowed to open at full capacity.
While many have welcomed the news, bar owners like Da Silva say it's unfair they still have to operate under restrictions.
"If you get [the vaccine passport], you can watch hockey. And like, I get that sort of idea and I think that's not a bad way to go about it. But it's a missed opportunity to not allow places like mine [to open fully]," Da Silva said.
The New Association of Bars of Quebec (NABQ) is also asking the government for a little reprieve to help restaurants and bars hard hit by the pandemic.
It's asking the government "be consistent."
"If 22,000 people can be side by side in an amphitheatre like the Bell Center, with 10 centimetres of distance between them, we should also allow restaurants and bars to accommodate the permitted capacity of their establishments and to close at 3 a.m.," said NABQ president Pierre Thibault in a press release on Monday.
Inside both restaurants and bars, a maximum of 10 people or three private residences can share the same table. Bars must also limit themselves to 50 per cent of the maximum capacity provided for in their liquor license.
Both restaurants and bars can serve alcohol until midnight and must close at 2 a.m.
'It will take us a little while to catch up'
Meanwhile, one venue gearing up to reopen at full capacity is the Centaur Theatre in Montreal. But the executive director says the announcement came as a surprise.
"It's a big jump without a lot of chance to plan for it, so it will take us a little while to catch up," said Eda Holmes.
She says the theatre won't be able to welcome a full house until some point in November, when its first show is already in full swing.
Holmes says she's also concerned that the audience isn't quite ready to sit in such close proximity to each other. To that end, the company is sending out a survey to gauge how people are feeling.
"I want our audience to literally tell us what will make them comfortable because we want to make sure they feel happy," said Holmes.
Only people who show proof that they are fully vaccinated will be allowed entry into show venues. Wearing masks will be mandatory while seated, unless a person is eating or drinking. The same rules will apply to outdoor venues.
Province not changing rules soon
Quebec's Health Minister Christian Dubé said this week that he's closely monitoring the epidemiological situation of the virus and is looking at easing some restrictions if the situation remains stable.
But as far as bar and restaurant capacity limits go, he says nothing is likely to change for at least a few weeks.
Da Silva is urging the government to give bar owners a timetable so they can prepare for a full reopening.
"I need to be able to pay my rent, I have to buy groceries and in order for that to happen I need people to be in here spending money and doing whatever they have to do so I can get by," he said.