One of Montreal's most popular summer destinations, Riverside Bar in St-Henri is reopening this summer with a twist. Opening at the end of May, Riverside Bar will be the place to get St-Henri's best ice cream! MTL Blog got the inside scoop on what to expect from Riverside's owner Justin Jolin.
With the Quebec government's plans to gradually reopen businesses already underway, Riverside Bar, like many other Quebec bars, was left out of the initial reopening list.
Take-out restaurants, however, we're allowed to reopen. With newly approved food truck permits, Jolin and his partners had the brilliant idea to open a summer ice cream truck in the back lot of Riverside.
"We're lucky enough to have the outdoor space and that they finished the construction on the Lachine Canal in October. We bought a food truck in December, applied for all the permits, and we got approved right before the pandemic hit," said Jolin.
Though the truck has no grill and technically can't offer delivery because it's not a "kitchen" by definition, Jolin saw an opportunity to keep his beloved business afloat.
"The biggest thing about us is that we're a seasonal business," highlighted Jolin. "We open for five months and host private events but you know, we're completely closed down from January to March."
Jolin says that like many small businesses, the effects of the pandemic have been "devastating."
Over the past few months, financial difficulties have put the survival of Riverside into question.
"Even with government aid, it's tough. We're lucky to be in St-Henri and there's such a community presence here, everyone helps each other out," explained Jolin.
"Rent is for sure one of the biggest expenses. Our goal with [the ice cream truck] is even if we cover half our rent, we're happy with that."
"Hopefully, the food truck, along with the government assistance can help us stay afloat until next summer."
Though the bar and restaurant industry has fallen on hard times, Jolin isn't ready to give up on Riverside. He took a moment to gather his thoughts when I asked him how long he anticipates Riverside can survive.
"You know, you hit a point where you have to make a decision: 'how long do I keep going?' It's a discussion I'm having with our partners but obviously, we're never going to let go."
"But I have to make these decisions, like everyone, how much am I going to dig into my personal savings to keep the business going?"
Jolin underlined that even if the worst-case scenario were to happen, he would do everything he can to keep Riverside open.
"I won't accept giving it up. I've worked too hard to have my dream place and let it go. I'm not willing to give up."