Irish Embassy fire will take months to repair
It’s been a rough week for Paul Quinn.
His bar, Irish Embassy, was completely ravaged by fire last week. The building, he learned, will have to be gutted.
“[I’m] in total, total shock, but at least I’ve calmed down and can see clearly,” he said.
Even with a quick repair turnaround, the bar will not likely be open to customers for five or six months.
A number of neighbouring buildings were also hit hard and left reeling after the fire.
Comedyworks, a lounge nearby, lost its top floor in the fire. The rest of the establishment, owner Troy Lourensse explained, was damaged by water.
On Saturday, Comedyworks moved to a temporary home at McLean’s Pub. It will eventually re-open, Lourensse said, but the future is still unclear.
“It’s been a terrible year,” he said.
In fact, merchants on the downtown stretch of Bishop St. are the players in an unfortunate infrastructural soap opera that began in 2016.
At the time, the STM began a four-year project to put in a new ventilation system for the metro, and since then, businesses just north of Ste. Catherine St. have been closing one by one – struggling to survive the ongoing construction.
Elio Schiavi’s restaurant Ferrari, which he has owned and managed since 1981, is one of the only spots left. Nearly all of the spots on the street's left hand side, where the construction began, have closed and gone out of business.
“Now I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the end,” Schiavi said. “Because you know, it’s very difficult.”
During his interview, Schiavi points out the lack of passerby outside the restaurant. Last year, business dropped by 20 per cent, he said, and the city has done nothing to help.
Schiavi reached out to Destination Centre-Ville, a non-profit intended to promote and support a healthy downtown core.
However, the effort was fruitless. In protest, Schiavi opted to withhold their membership fee – but they ended up sending a bailiff to collect it.
As the construction end date looms, Schiavi and four other surviving merchants are pursuing court action against the City of Montreal, the STM, and Destination Centre-Ville to court.
Mayor Valerie Plante campaigned on compensation for merchants.
Just weeks before the Montreal election, Plante told reporters there was a “need to give a tax break to businesses when there’s a big construction site on the street.”
Months later, no formal announcement has been made regarding this compensation – and both merchants and the opposition are wondering whether it’s too late.
“There’s an urgency to it – there’s no point in bringing in any help if the patient is already dead,” said opposition member and Saint-Laurent mayor Alan DeSousa.
But DeSousa added that the city did get new metropolis powers that could be used to offer some help.
“These powers allow the city to compensate people even going back retroactively,” he said.
Last week, the Quebec Liberal Party announce a $150 million boost to improve Montreal’s economic development. Plante declined to say how it would be specifically spent, but a full breakdown is expected to come on April 19.
There’s been speculation that compensation for Bishop St. merchants would come out of this sum, but nothing has been formally announced.
DeSousa said that compensation could potentially come out of the contingency line in the city’s budget. However, because of additional snow removal operations this season, he believes part of that fund could have already been used.
The Plante administration and the President of Destination Centre-Ville could not be reached for comment Sunday.