2 Quebec Restaurants That Vowed To Reopen Against Public Health Rules Are Backing Down
They received both praise and criticism for their decisions to reopen dining rooms before it was allowed.
Two Quebec restaurants that sparked a media frenzy when they announced they'd reopen despite public health rules are backing down ahead of the officially sanctioned reopening of dining rooms on January 31.
Earlier in January, Montreal Italian restaurant Kesté and Saguenay pâtisserie Vite des Péchés vowed they'd open their doors to customers seeking sit-down meals after enduring wave after wave of restrictions that they said had been damaging and, most recently, inconsistent.
The restaurants planned to ignore the dining-room closure
"We can no longer comply with these arbitrary measures that have been proven NOT to be effective in solving the issue we are all faced with," Kesté wrote in an Instagram post on January 14. The restaurant encouraged other businesses to join in what it called an act of civil disobedience and reopen on January 30 without requiring the vaccine passport.
"If something doesn't change and we don't take a stand small businesses will turn into something of the past," the post read.
Vite des Péchés owner Stéphanie Hariot, by contrast, told the Journal de Montréal that it was not her intention to "launch a movement." In her own social media post on January 19, she simply said she had had "enough."
"It's not my 10 chairs that are going to create outbreaks," she wrote. "We are all vaccinated. I have been paying my taxes for 22 years. It's not my fault that the health care system is down."
In an appearance on Tout le monde en parle, Hariot committed, unlike Kesté, to enforcing other health measures, such as the vaccine passport.
Though both restaurants said they received an outpouring of support, they also met intense criticism. On January 18, Health Minister Christian Dubé publicly questioned the conscience of any business that decided to defy public health rules at a moment when hospitals were overloaded with COVID-19 patients.
Now they're reversing course
The day that Premier François Legault announced that dining rooms could reopen with limited capacity on January 31, both Vite des Péchés and Kesté took to social media once again to say they had decided not to open as they had once planned.
Kesté suggested it would not survive the fines and license revocations it said officials had privately threatened.
"We will not be opening our doors," the restaurant wrote on Instagram on January 25. "We hope you all understand that we are a small family business and cannot afford to lose everything."
"We are already struggling with closures, loss of staff and rules that make it impossible to make a living. We wanted a non violent protest but unfortunately we cannot account for what will happen if we open."
Hariot, meanwhile, faced additional criticism for a remark she made on Tout le monde en parle suggesting members of the Hasidic Jewish community don't adhere to public health rules. Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith Canada objected to the statement in a January 24 news release.
B'nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights Director Marvin Rotrand called on showrunners "to distance themselves from such remarks as they encourage a toxic antisemitic characterization of Hasidic Jews that is all too prevalent in Canada."
In a January 25 Facebook post, Hariot said she decided to wait until the official January reopening date "in order not to throw oil on the fire."
Both restaurants thanked supporters.