MONTREAL -- After a devastating year of closures, takeout and layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Montreal's restaurants, bars and clubs are planning to stage a symbolic reopening on Saturday.

The goal is to encourage the public to "discover or rediscover the dining rooms and the beautiful, well-tended places you once enjoyed so much."

Participating businesses will have staff members welcome passersby on the street "to distribute gift certificates and many other surprises."

"It goes without saying that all participants are invited to wear a mask and public health sanitary protocols will be observed," organizers insist, adding city officials are aware of the event.


Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault noted there may soon be some allowances given to restaurants and bars if COVID-19 numbers across the province continue to improve.

"We hope that in the next few weeks [we'll bring] many zones to orange so that we can open restaurants in May," he said.

Last week, two groups of licensed Quebec establishments asked the premier to allow bars and restaurants across the province to reopen to patrons who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a letter, the Corporation des proprietaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec (CPBBTQ) and the Union des tenanciers de bars du Québec (UTBQ) wrote this measure would breathe some much-needed oxygen into the industry.

"It really seems that our industry has fallen into oblivion," the letter reads, noting that bars have been closed almost continually for a year. "Our industry simply can't take it anymore."

A coalition representing over 10,000 restaurants has also asked Quebec Public Health to release a prospective timeline for reopening so they can prepare for the summer.

“We've always been told that when cases are under 500 (new cases per day), they'll let us reopen the interiors and I think we're a few weeks away from that,” said Foodtastic's Peter Mammas. “Let's start with the patios, which are really safe outside and then let's move on to interiors.”

Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Public Health told CTV News infection rates are still too high, and with the new variants circulating, moving too fast could force restaurants to shut down mere weeks after re-opening.

Saturday's symbolic event will take place from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Businesses taking part include Chez Alexandre, Chez Lévesque, Les Enfants Terribles, Joe Beef, Montreal Plaza, Le Mousso, Stogies, Chez Luigi, Pied de Cochon, Homard Fou, Jardin Nelson, Europea and more.

-- with files from CTV News' Emily Campbell and The Canadian Press.