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Montreal bar fuming after snowboard festival sets up sponsored pop-up bar directly in front

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After the notoriously rough January and February months, Montreal bars such as Turbo Haus in the Latin Quarter, look forward to Nuit Blanch in March to kickstart their spring.

This weekend, however, Turbo Haus management and staff were frustrated to see that the Apik Fest ski and snowboard competition that had taken over the block, set up a pop-up bar directly in front of the business on Friday afternoon.

"It was completely covering up the facade of our bar and pretty much made it completely inaccessible," said co-owner Sergio Da Silva. "Everyone was understandably upset. Coming out of January and February which are typically the slowest months in our year, we look forward to Nuit Blanche to kickstart our spring and have a little bit of extra cash in our pocket going into the new season."

Latin Quarter commercial development corporation (SDC) managing director Rachel Van Velzen said the festival attracts thousands of visitors and is a boost for commercial attractiveness, particularly for local bars and restaurants.

"Initiatives have been put in place to increase the business visibility, and we have observed a marked increase in foot traffic in his establishment," she said, adding that events like Apik revitalize urban neighbourhoods like the Latin Quarter.

Van Velzen said establishments were informed that alcohol would be sold on the street and that "the specific logistical and security constraints of an event of this magnitude on this stretch of Saint-Denis Street limit the possibilities for the placement of a temporary bar." 

Da Silva said that organizers did not mention that a sponsored pop-up bar would be put directly in front of an existing business.

Last year, the same event was held without a bar in front of his business and Da Silva said the bar made $3,500 more.

Van Velzen said the event drew nearly 50,000 visitors, which contributes to the Latin Quarter's visibility.

"The Latin Quarter SDC is committed to consulting all its members at the end of the event to gather their feedback and suggestions for integrating these elements into the planning of a third edition, thus confirming its commitment to a participatory and inclusive approach," she said.

LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Bar owner Sergio Da Silva laments festival setting up pop-bar outside his business

City not helping

It is the second time in the past six months that Da Silva has voiced his frustration with the city's treatment of small bars.

In November, he and other bar owners called for the city to update noise bylaws and develop better rules to protect small businesses.

He said the city didn't help then and doesn't expect that they will help with this weekend's issues.

"It's really frustrating to know that the people who are essentially the stewards of arts and culture in the cities, people who have the money and people who can allow people to do things, don't really have a very firm grasp as to what it takes to make these things work," said Da Silva. "And then on top of all that, we're sort of in a situation where the things that they put up actively make it worse for us."

He added that he understands the event, with its massive snowboard ramp and multiple tents, is a massive undertaking to put on, but he just wished organizers had thought about how the pop-up bar's placement would affect local businesses.  

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