Attracting foodies from all over Montreal and around the world, Notre Dame St. has become the place to go out to eat, with an explosion of restaurants -- 16 new eateries have opened in five years, many of them high-end hot spots.

But a new bylaw has the Southwest borough is putting the brakes on new restaurants, forcing them to be at least 25 metres away from the nearest one.

“Every second storefront should not be a restaurant,” said Southwest borough councillor Craig Sauve, a member of Projet Montreal.

“Maybe get in some retail, grocery stores, bakeries. Get in some services. That's what people in the neighbourhood really want,” he said.

The borough also wants to keep soaring rental prices in check.

Cafe St-Henri went public when its landlord tried to hike the rent from $23,000 to $63,000 per year.

“There's St-Laurent St. right around Sherbrooke that had the same pressure we want to avoid here in the Sud-Ouest. It’s not because of lack of trying, it’s because the rent is too high,” he said.

Some small business owners, however, say the borough should stay out of it.

“If you limit restaurants, something stays for rent longer,” said Danielle Russell, owner of Botania, a local beauty and home products shop. “If restaurants are what are wanted, I have nothing against more restaurants. It’s a tough situation, because you want to let the market regulate itself.”

Real estate agent Sebastien Trottier said the demand is from restaurants, with most others already priced out.

“We've had cafes come in, and at these prices they can't afford the rents, they crunch the numbers and they realize what they need to sell in a year to break even. They'll make offers, but their offers are one third to a half of what the landlords are asking,” he said.

Thus the urgency to act, said Sauve, adding that the borough is offering grants to help small businesses set up shop.

The Southwest borough will be holding a public meeting next Thursday about the zoning bylaw, which is already in effect. It becomes permanent in November.