MONTREAL -- Theatres and stadiums can soon operate at full capacity, it was announced Thursday, marking the latest step in Quebec's gradual return to normalcy.

But the announcement has sparked outrage among bar owners, some of whom accuse the government of favouring large venues over small, independent ones.

"Once again, this coveted relief excludes bar owners: the government is acting with a double standard!" reads a press release by a Quebec bar owners' association (CPBBTQ) and bar tenants' union (UTBQ).

The bar industry suffered tremendously after businesses were forced to shutter their doors last year to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Although bars, breweries and taverns have since reopened, they can only operate at a 50 per cent capacity, restricted hours and a vaccine passport.

"I was already hoping [to see] some progress, especially since they imposed the passport on us, without giving us anything in return," the owner of Montreal nightclub Le Belmont told CTV News. 

When asked why the new capacity measures do not yet apply to these businesses, the provincial health ministry said it's trying to be as careful as possible. 

"For the time being, public health has allowed for relaxations in places where there is a low transmission rate," reads the ministry's statement.

The situation will continue to be monitored, the statement concludes.

As of Oct. 8, large venues must follow certain criteria in order to pack a full house. In most cases, assigned seating and vaccine passports will be required, and masks must be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking.

But the CPBBTQ and UTBQ say this latter rule is what makes the distinction between bars and large venues irrelevant.

"People will be able to remove their masks when they consume drinks or food: what is the difference with bar patrons, who are obliged to sit down and can only remove their masks when they consume a drink?"

Current restrictions prohibit bar customers from leaving their tables, but they may remove their masks once seated.

In the eyes of the CPBBTQ and UTBQ, bar owners are being discriminated against as a result of these new rules.

"It is inconceivable that the government allows giants such as the Bell Centre and the NHL teams to make millions of dollars in revenue, while it allows small Quebec entrepreneurs such as bar owners to die one by one due to the ostracism of which they are victims."