COVID-19 crackdown: Quebec police make presence known at bars across province
MONTREAL -- Visibility was the point as police began to enter bars and restaurants across the province last night, part of the announced weekend-long crackdown on COVID-19 rule violators.
That was why groups of police could be found entering bars around Montreal, in uniform, and taking a thorough look around.
“We had about ten police officers show up” at the McKibbin’s Irish Pub location on St. Laurent Blvd. on Friday night, said owner Rick Fon.
They stayed for only about five minutes, but no one could have failed to notice their presence.
"Checking for social distancing, people sitting down…people wearing masks, staff, capacity,” said Fon.
The officers “looked around, checked everything, asked us about a registry, which we have…and that was pretty much it,” he said.
The officers took lots of notes and left without giving any tickets. That scene was repeated across Quebec's towns and cities on Friday night and will play out again on Saturday.
Montreal police won’t give an update until Monday morning about how many tickets they issued in total over the weekend.
Though everything went smoothly for McKibbin's, Fon said he still feels the province is looking in the wrong places in its search for COVID-19 scofflaws.
“For the most part I feel we're being scapegoated,” he said.
“They have clearly stated that it’s not the bars’ fault, or the restaurants—it's the social gatherings and private parties that, unfortunately, they can't control.”
While there were earlier outbreaks associated with bars in the Montreal area, the city’s public health chief, Dr. Mylene Drouin, told CTV on Friday that there are currently no bars in the city linked to an outbreak, unlike in Quebec City, where a karaoke bar was at the centre of the biggest recent outbreak.
Still, Drouin said she supported the province’s police crackdown. She and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante both said this week that it would be a tougher decision to allow police to go into people’s homes to check that they were following the rules for private gatherings.
"It's not what we want,” said Plante. “We don't like to see police officers interfering into the public sphere.”
Under the province’s COVID-19 laws, police can fine both businesses and clients. Plante said that while she doesn’t enjoy seeing the stricter enforcement, it’s still a necessary move to keep the economy open.
"It's a balance,” she said. “We want to have more presence of police officers to make sure some of those spaces respect the rules. That being said, ultimately it's about us individuals.”
Watch the video above for Gabrielle Fahmy's full report.