Of the 22,000 restaurants in Quebec before the pandemic, more than 2,700 have now closed their doors forever, according to Restaurants Canada.
“This is more than elsewhere in the country, where there is talk of 10% closures, because there has been more confinement in Quebec,” said the vice-president of this pan-Canadian association of restaurateurs, David Lefebvre.
In order to stop the bleeding, Restaurants Canada is asking the Legault government to immediately reopen the dining rooms, which were closed on October 1 “without any indication that they are places of community transmission”.
“We have the impression of being the scapegoats. To date, Public Health has not been able to demonstrate, with supporting figures, the responsibility of restaurants in the transmission [du virus] », Pleads Mr. Lefebvre.
At the Association Restauration Québec, we are a little more careful. “I do not dispute the figures from Restaurants Canada, but I have no way of collecting data like this,” explains Vice-President François Meunier.
And Mr. Meunier recalls that the Director of Public Health, Horacio Arruda, has often repeated it: scientific evidence that restaurants are a place of spread does not exist. Mr. Arruda has also often explained, he continues, that they are closed because they are places of socialization, which the authorities want to avoid.
“We were sacrificed on the altar of the message to be passed on to public opinion,” he says.
Federal aid requested
About two-thirds (65%) of restaurants that are still open are losing money due to COVID-19, according to the cluster.
Restaurants Canada is also demanding the creation of a national task force to revive the restaurant industry, since two-thirds of the restaurants still open would lose money at present.
If conditions do not improve, says the organization, half of the restaurants that are not part of a chain will close their doors within six months.
Until then, Restaurants Canada wants to sit down with the federal government to think of a long-term solution that will allow restaurants to survive and then come back to life. “The measures in place take us until the summer, we have to be sure that we can adjust them, because our needs may change,” says David Lefebvre.