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Downtown Montreal restaurant told to close packed terrace on Grand Prix Friday night

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On the busiest Friday night of the year, in the centre of the F1 Grand Prix action in downtown Montreal, a restaurant was told to kick customers off its terrace and close it down.

In a tear-filled post on Instagram, Groupe Ferreira director of operations Sandra Ferreira explained how members of the Service de securite incendie de Montreal (SIM) told her that the Ferreira Café terrace on Peel Street was not up to code and had to be emptied and closed or the whole restaurant would be shut down.

"They wait until Friday at 9 p.m. of the Grand Prix to come, while we have a full restaurant and, in front of everyone, they ask us to make everyone leave the terrace," said Ferreira. "Like we’re 9 p.m. and jam-packed."

She said she was able to find and produce permits for her ventilation system and emails saying the terrace was authorized but that the officials told her she had to either close the terrace or the restaurant.

She said in her video that the cafe and other restaurants and bars have been working for months to have a Grand Prix event on Peel Street, but that with construction on Ste. Catherine Street and Peel, "it took months to get special permission to get our terraces on Peel."

"Eventually, after speaking with many officials, the city told us we are ok," she said. "I find this so cruel to have waited two or three weeks to have come to tell me this while the restaurant is full."

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante's office said it was "shaken" to hear Ferreira's message and that SIM teams have confirmed that all terraces on Peel Street are now in compliance and can reopen on Saturday.

"The responsibility of the Service de sécurité incendie is to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors," said spokesperson Catherine Cadotte. "The SIM must maintain a constant dialogue and continue to seek solutions to ensure the safety and vitality of the businesses we all love."

Montreal opposition party Ensemble Montreal councillor Abdelhaq Sari was quick to criticize Mayor Valerie Plante's leadership in her own borough - Ville-Marie.

"Where is the consultation with all the stakeholders that the mayor is talking about?" he wrote on X.

Ferreira later posted on Instagram that the tent surrounding the exterior tables was removed.

Not Montreal firefighters

The Montreal firefighters union (Association des Pompiers de Montreal) said on Saturday that it was "irritated and deeply disappointed to see its members erroneously and intensely taken to task by various restaurant owners who were forced to close their terraces."

The association said its members had nothing to do with the SIM interventions.

"The confusion stems from the fact that this spectacular operation, called Sentinelle, was carried out by prevention officers, civilian employees, who, unfortunately, wear a uniform similar to that of firefighters," said Firefighters Association president Chris Ross.

While the union said its members were not involved with closing terraces downtown, "firefighters cannot remain insensitive to the presence of significant infractions."

"In the past, Montreal has experienced tragic events attributable to this type of offence," the union's news release reads. "In the Association's view, society cannot afford to be lax, especially during periods of heavy human activity, at the risk of causing disastrous events, even tragedies."

Ferreira later posted an apology on her Instagram to the Montreal firefighters, saying it was the fire prevention officials she encountered and was angry at.

More to come. 

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