Sergio Da Silva says there’s nothing quite like playing a show in front of a full house at his bar and concert hall in downtown Montreal. But with the current COVID-19 restrictions, it still only happens in front of a few dozen people at a time.
“Nothing feels right, you don’t have the same feeling as in a packed house with people having fun,” said the Turbo Haüs co-owner.
As of Friday, performance venues with assigned seats in Quebec, including cinemas, theaters and amphitheatres, were allowed to open at full capacity.
While many have welcomed the news, bar owners like Da Silva say it is unfair that they always have to operate under restrictions.
“If you get [the vaccine passport], you can watch hockey. And like, I have that kind of idea and I think that’s not a bad way to go about it. But it’s a missed opportunity not to allow places like mine [to open fully]”said Da Silva.
The New Association of Quebec Bars (NABQ) is also asking the government for a small reprieve to help restaurants and bars hit hard by the pandemic.
It is asking the government “to be coherent”.
“If 22,000 people can be side by side in an amphitheater like the Bell Center, with 10 centimeters of distance between them, we should also allow restaurants and bars to accommodate the authorized capacity of their establishments and to close at 3 a.m. Said the NABQ. President Pierre Thibault in a press release Monday.
Inside restaurants and bars, a maximum of 10 people or three private residences can share the same table. Bars must also limit themselves to 50 percent of the maximum capacity specified in their liquor license.
Restaurants and bars can serve alcohol until midnight and must close at 2 a.m.
“It will take a little while for us to catch up.”
Meanwhile, one venue preparing to reopen at full capacity is the Centaur Theater in Montreal. But the executive director says the announcement came as a surprise.
“It’s a big jump without a lot of luck planning it so it will take a little while for us to catch up,” said Eda Holmes.
She says the theater won’t be able to accommodate a full house until November, when her first show is already in full swing.
Holmes says she’s also concerned that the audience isn’t quite ready to sit close to each other. To that end, the company sends out a survey to gauge how people are feeling.
“I want our audience to literally tell us what will make them feel comfortable because we want to make sure they feel happy,” Holmes said.
Only people who prove that they are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the performance halls. Wearing a mask will be compulsory while seated, unless a person is eating or drinking. The same rules will apply to external sites.
The province will not change the rules soon
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said this week that he is closely monitoring the epidemiological situation of the virus and is considering easing some restrictions if the situation remains stable.
But when it comes to bar and restaurant capacity limits, he says nothing will likely change for at least a few weeks.
Da Silva is urging the government to give bar owners a timeline so they can prepare for a full reopening.
“I need to be able to pay my rent, I need to shop for groceries and for that to happen I need people to be here spending money and doing whatever they need to do so that I can get out of it, ”he said.