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2 Montreal fire service employees suspended in wake of fiasco over terrace closures on Grand Prix weekend

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Two employees with the City of Montreal's fire service have been suspended following the controversial closing of restaurant terraces on Peel Street during Grand Prix weekend. 

"The situation was concerning so the city manager's office decided to launch an internal, administrative investigation to shed light on what happened because … what happened was unacceptable and, so far, the city manager's office decided to suspend one employee," said Luc Rabouin, the president of the mayor's executive committee, during a press conference on Monday afternoon. 

He declined to provide further details about the suspension at the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM). 

On Monday evening, Noovo Info reported that a second SIM worker had been supended, and that both employees were suspended with pay pending the investigation. 

At around 9 p.m. on Friday night, fire prevention officers with the SIM told multiple businesses to close down their terraces for alleged fire code violations otherwise their entire restaurants would be forced to close. 

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante asked for a post-mortem to be carried out after the incident, which led to multiple terraces being shut down during one of the busiest nights of the year for bars.  

Ferreira Café was one of the establishments that was targeted and owner Sandra Ferreira posted a tear-filled message about the ordeal on her Instagram after evacuating her packed terrace. Her video has racked up more than two million views. 

In an interview with CTV News on Monday, she described how upsetting it was to kick her customers out.

"I was so angry and that's why I started crying. And I started crying in front of the gentlemen when they asked me to evacuate," she told CTV News. 

'Heavy-handed' approach

Rabouin said ensuring compliance with fire safety regulations is important, but that he was concerned about the "heavy-handed" approach the fire prevention workers took when paying the restaurants a visit on Friday night.

"We cannot decide the operations of the SIM as elected officials but sincerely I think that there are other ways to be sure that we are able to enforce [the rules] and coming during the rush hour doesn't seem to be the best idea," he said. 

Luc Rabouin, the president of the mayor's executive committee, speaks to reporters on Monday, June 10, 2024. (CTV News)

"It's a shock for them, it's a shock for us," he added, in reference to how the situation was handled. "We find that it's unacceptable."

Alain Creton, the owner of Chez Alexandre, says in his 47 years in business he's never experienced anything like this and he hopes it never happens again.

"It's a shame. Shame for us, shame for Montreal," he said, adding that he lost 75 per cent of his business on Friday night.

The city gave Peel Street businesses special permission to open the terraces, even though the fire service insisted they were non-compliant and claimed it warned businesses of this 10 days before the intervention.

With tents taken down, the merchants say it could have been handled better.

Rabouin said city officials met with them on Monday and that the administration is looking for solutions to prevent this from happening again.

Meanwhile, opposition party Ensemble Montreal said the city administration should question fire officials in front of council so that the public can get answers on the "monumental fiasco" that tarnished the city's reputation.

Julien Hénault-Ratelle, the party's economic development critic, blamed the "shameful" incident on a lack of co-ordination and communication between the fire prevention team and the borough administration led by Plante. 

He said the closure, while it affected only a few restaurants, is only the latest challenge for struggling downtown businesses. "There are issues with cleanliness, the cohabitation with the homeless within downtown Montreal, and right here we have a work site right next to the street," he told reporters. "All of those issues are very hard for all of the business owners."

With files from CTV Montreal's Olivia O'Malley and The Canadian Press

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