Income anemic, employees in tears : the restaurants and bars are struggling
The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — A walk on major thoroughfares merchant of Montreal, you can see that the managers of restaurants and cocktail lounges can say without reserve : the times are particularly hard in their economic sector.
Crescent street, in the heart of the city centre, the terraces are beginning very slowly to come alive on the lunch hour. In general, it is far from as busy as before, confirms Lae Schmidt, a manager of the resto-bar Wainsteen & Gavino’s.
The street is pedestrian since the start of the weekend and so far has paid off. The last two days have been “the busiest” since the reopening there has been about a month, she says The canadian Press. It was a “very big” difference, especially as “the people want to eat outside” on the terrace.
Several employees were discouraged, she says. All try to stay upbeat and smile, even if it is sometimes impossible to see behind their mask, which represents, she says, a problem in this sector of the economy that strives to live an experience.
Not far away, in another restaurant-bar, a manager who is not authorized to speak to the media said that the situation is difficult both on the finances of the institution and the morale. “Employees cry”, lance-t-il.
The current situation represents “a lot of challenges to overcome,” acknowledges François Meunier, vice-president, public affairs of the Association to Restore Quebec. You should not take for granted that the re-opening of the dining rooms 1/8… 3/8 allows us to affirm that it is out of the woods, quite to the contrary.”
The three months of closure during the containment have been “a disaster” and have made “enormous damage”, he noted. The fact of not being able to operate with a fraction of their normal capacity also has important implications.
According to a survey conducted by association, 61 % of operators say they will have to close their doors if the rules of distanciation and government support measures remain the same beyond Christmas.
But where the situation is incredibly difficult, it is in the fairs of food from the city centre. The Eaton Centre, the new Time Out Market, which had opened with great fanfare shortly before the pandemic has drastically reduced its opening hours so that its restaurants are now open at noon every day.
A situation that would not be surprising, according to Mr. Miller, which mentions that many restaurants close early or are simply not open for lunchtime.
Scarcity of customers
The aisles of the shopping centre are very quiet on this Sunday on the lunch hour. In another section, many of the counters were also closed.
Standing in warrior, Nur Nobi, an employee at the middle eastern restaurant Basha, see how it is quiet. “We expect the customers, but there is not a lot,” he said.
The rents are extremely expensive : $ 16,000 per month,” says Irene Poon, co-owner of the counter nearby japanese cuisine Edo. It saddens to see that “some days we make only $ 200 in sales”.
“At the opening, customers were excited to come back, she said. After one or two weeks, there was almost nobody. Since last week, with the obligation to wear the mask in the mall and the holidays of the construction, there are even fewer customers.”
Ms. Poon states that she tries so hard to stay positive and fingers crossed for a vaccine to be available quickly, or that governments are more generous.
But it is difficult : its clients are usually students, tourists, and especially of the employees of the office towers, and they have largely deserted the town centre, in particular because of telework.
Only 5 % of workers travelled to the city centre before Quebec does not allow the gradual return to the offices, according to the board of trade of metropolitan Montreal. This blow hard, it is necessary to add that the city plans to accommodate just one million tourists this year, rather than the 11 million who go there normally, not to mention the cancellation of sporting and cultural events, including many festivals.
“It can only be of immense consequences, summarizes Mr. Miller in an interview. You can’t think that people are going to find a minimum of attendance only with residents of the district.”
The situation seems happily less disastrous in residential neighborhoods. On The Plateau-Mont-Royal, the restaurant, The Avenue has not lost much of the long tail that ran past the property at the time of the brunch. The file even has the air longer because people need to be at two metres, says Louka Bédard, the manager.
It acknowledges, however, that it is “definitely” less busy because there are much less tables because of the rules of detachment, in the belief that even having the chance that the restaurant is still in business.
And large groups are a history of the past. It is now mainly to families, friends and people who live together.
Like many other managers we met with, Ms. Bédard note significant variations in the attendance of the restaurant. “The regular customers are returned in full force the first week. 1/8… 3/8 And then, there was a little hollow, but it has stabilized. Especially since wearing a mask, people have less fear.”
The mask-wearing compulsory is not a source of friction with customers, she said. They put it when employees remind them that this is not optional.
The arrest strong profile of a customer defaulting the last weekend would be an isolated case, according to several traders met. “In general, it’s going very well, says François Meunier. Everyone made a great effort.”
With regard to the closure of the avenue du Mont-Royal, the measure has not had the negative impact feared Ms. Bédard, because of the difficulties to park.
“People come anyway. They dawdle, they walk, they shop,” said she, while a constant stream of pedestrians déambulaient. One thing is for certain, “everyone is really happy to be out after three or four months to be home.”