Features | From Pivot Magazine

How restaurants in this Canadian city survived the summer of COVID

Before the second wave of the pandemic hit in October, Montreal’s eateries headed outdoors to stay safe—and in business

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Outdoor dining on Montreal’s Bernard Street during COVID-19Montreal’s Bernard Ave. temporarily transformed into a pedestrian zone, allowing local restaurants and cafés to expand their terrasses into the street to better accommodate social distancing requirements (Photograph by Rodolphe Beaulieu)

As Quebec entered Stage 3 of its initial COVID-19 reopening strategy, the city temporarily transformed the artery into a pedestrian zone, allowing local restaurants and cafés to expand their terrasses into the street to better accommodate social distancing requirements. The city also helped ease operating costs. Normally, patio licences are a costly expense for restaurants and bars—as high as $85,000—but this year the fee was lowered to $50 city-wide.

For restaurants that closed during the spring lockdown, these moves kept businesses afloat, local owners say. When social distancing rules forced establishments to lower their indoor capacity, outdoor space helped to make up some of the difference. And after months spent cooking at home, customers in Montreal flocked back to their favourite restaurants’ patios. Here’s how Bernard Ave. eateries coped with COVID-19—and kept their staff and patrons safe— before the second wave brought more shutdown initiatives in the fall.

Les Enfants Terribles

Mandatory indoor mask-wear for patrons and employees, plus added face guards for employees; frequent sanitization of tables; frequent employee hand-washing and the placement of tables at least two metres apart (or separated by dividers where space does not exist) are among the precautions the restaurant introduced to keep diners and staff safe. And it paid off. From a business standpoint, the eatery had one of its most successful summers, according to manager Anthony Palfreeman. “The mood on the patio is extremely joyful. People are happy to be reuniting with their loved ones having a drink outside in the sun.”

La Brasserie Bernard

“The patios woke up the entire neighbourhood,” says maître d' Adrian Piché. At La Brasserie Bernard, staff were given disposable masks and protective glasses, and had access to five different sanitation stations. The restaurant also began supplying customers with disposable food menus and their reusable wine menus were sanitized after each use, along with their merchant payment machines. Piché says he received positive feedback from patrons. “They’re happy to see us again and pleased to know we’re taking steps to keep them safe.”

No. 900

The pizzeria had 15 tables out front of the historic Outremont Theatre. All seating was arranged at least two metres apart, and all shared surfaces and objects were sanitized between customers. Palm plants and wicker chairs added a lush, nostalgic vibe to the dining experience.

Café Souvenir

“It’s been a lot more work for everyone as we’ve adjusted to COVID-19 precautions,” says manager Cathy Hadj-Ali. “But it’s been worth it.” She found that some customers were reluctant to eat indoors, but moving tables outside allowed her to maintain the restaurant’s regular capacity. When the weather is good, the patio stays full. “We’ve been open for 28 years, so this is a regular hangout for lots of people in the neighbourhood.”


Learn why the next recession will be like no other and what small businesses can do to survive the impact of the global pandemic. Read about what employers and employees need to do to keep everyone at work safe and how to stay clear of scams related to COVID-19. For those working from home, these tips will ensure you stay productive.

Also, stay up-to-date with CPA Canada’s compilation of external resources and online news articles related to the impact of the coronavirus.