Let there be dance: Montreal nightclub owners to protest Quebec’s dancing ban
MONTREAL -- Shuttered since March 2020, Montreal nightclubs have arguably been the worst hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and now owners are taking to the streets to demand they finally be allowed to welcome people back onto the dancefloor.
While restaurants and bars were rejoicing Thursday when the Quebec government unexpectedly announced that those businesses will be able to operate at 100 per cent capacity as of Nov. 1, nightclubs were snubbed from the soon-to-be relaxed health measures.
As of that date, bars will also be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m., however, dancing and karaoke are still banned under the current regulations.
Owners like Tommy Piscardelli, who owns Stereo, a landmark venue in Montreal nightlife for 23 years, say it was a slap in the face, particularly because of the controversy last weekend where thousands of maskless fans were seen dancing inside the Bell Centre at a Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias concert.
“It just made me even angrier because it's, like, now they've really singled [us out],” he said in an interview with CTV News on Friday.
“We are literally the last business to open in the whole city of Montreal.”
He said the last blow was the loss of the federal government subsidies, such as the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which are due to expire on Oct. 23. That’s the same day Piscardelli and other bar owners have chosen to hold a large demonstration in Montreal.
The “Droit de danser” demonstration will look more like a parade, according to Piscardelli. Sound trucks will blast music as the crowd makes its way down Park Avenue starting at 2 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m., according to a Facebook event.
“We are not anti-virus, we are not anti-government, anti-vaccine, anti-anything — we're pro everything,” Piscardeli said.
“It's a festive parade. It's not — it's nothing negative. It's just to make some noise, to let people know we're here.”
Piscardelli said he would gladly enforce the vaccine passport at the door, and would even welcome an indoor masking policy if public health recommended it, as long as it means he can open his doors again.
The head of the bars association of Quebec is standing behind nightclub venues as well.
Jean-Jacques Beauchamp, president of the Quebec bars association, CPBBTQ, said he was also disappointed by the province’s announcement on Thursday.
“Why is there still no dancing and no karaoke in a bar?” he said Thursday, adding that he intends to take up the issues with Quebec officials next week.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services did not immediately respond to a request from CTV News about when dancing and karaoke would be permitted.