Quebec lockdown will keep bars and restaurants closed into February

The Government of Quebec has put in place a lockdown with new restrictions in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

These enhanced measures will be in place from January 9 through February 8 and mandate that all bars and restaurants must remain closed aside from curbside pickup and delivery.

A new province-wide lockdown announced by Premier François Legault on January 6 is likely to multiply the impact on foodservice, however. Under the new lockdown, an overnight curfew has been put in place from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. During this time, Quebecers have been instructed not to leave their homes except in cases that justify travel, such as healthcare, humanitarian reasons, or to engage in priority work.

Grocery stores and dépanneurs will close at 7:30 p.m. to allow people to get home before curfew. Exceptions include pharmacies, dépanneurs connected to gas stations, and restaurants for delivery orders only.

“What we are asking Quebecers is … apart from working, apart from going to school, apart from getting food, you have to stay home,” said Legault.

Overall, the lockdown mandates that all non-priority commercial enterprises must close until February 8. Businesses offering only essential goods and services are exempt. On-site pickup is allowed, as are online orders for delivery and curbside pickup. To comply with the 8 p.m. curfew, all commercial enterprises must close by 7:30 p.m.

Calls for a third-party delivery fee cap

A spokesperson for the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ) stated: “We are of course relieved to see the Quebec government acknowledge food-delivery services as an essential service by allowing it to continue 24 hours a day.”

However, they added that the new measures reinforce the importance of Quebec following provinces like Ontario in capping delivery fees charged by third-party apps. Quebec third-party food delivery apps currently charge up to 30 per cent of the sale price on top of the upfront fees paid by the customer. “We would like to see those fees capped at around 15 per cent, similar to what’s been done recently in Ontario and British Columbia,” said the spokesperson.

For some regions of the province, foodservice operations have been restricted for several months. For example, on-site service at restaurants and bars in Montreal has been suspended since October 1.

“What the industry truly needs is a reopening date that is set in stone and accompanied by lasting, accessible financial aid that will help the industry beyond just the period of dining-room closures,” the ARQ spokesperson added.

“Quebec already has at least 10 per cent of its restaurant owners who have chosen not to renew their food-preparation licenses, which represents 2,000 establishments across the province that are most likely gone for good. We’re anticipating closing 2020 with a $6-billion sales deficit with regard to 2019. Much more needs to be done to support our industry, which has sacrificed so much in the name of public safety, unfortunately without much result. Restaurants are not the problem, they are part of the solution.”

Meanwhile, in B.C.

Over in British Columbia, the government has further extended its state of emergency through January 19. That takes the official period of emergency past 10 months.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a wide variety of restaurants saw a massive collapse in business due to concerns of transmission. This has led many operators to adapt their business to ensure safety and viability through ever-changing restrictions. Current province-wide restrictions in B.C. require patrons to wear masks when not seated at tables and limit the number of people seated at one table to a maximum of six people. In order to continue operation, foodservice establishments must also have an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan and employee protocols in place.

WorkSafeBC, which oversees and enforces work-related health and safety standards, will continue to confirm COVID-19 Safety Plans with local businesses that remain open.

On December 27, British Columbia followed Ontario by implementing its own cap on food-delivery service fees through updates to the Emergency Program Act (EPA). The order places a short-term cap of 15 per cent on the maximum fees charged to restaurants for the delivery of each order, as well as an additional 5 per cent cap for all other related services provided to restaurants for the use of their online platform.