MONTREAL -- The Plateau Mont-Royal has loosened regulations for businesses in the hopes of luring bars to Saint-Denis Street.

Saint-Denis, like many commercial thoroughfares in Montreal, has suffered from a rash of vacancies. Rents are high. So are taxes, business owners have said. Bars, many of which are successful on Saint-Denis Street, had to be built at least 150 m away from each other. But under the new rules, that distance will be reduced to 50 m. 

The rule changes, if effective, will lead to a flood of new businesses on the street. "There is a lot of vacant space on Saint-Denis Street, so our main concern is to be sure that we have diversity, and [a mix] of different merchants," borough mayor, Luc Rabouin, said.

The borough has also softened regulations to allow for more surface space for businesses. More rental units will also be permitted in commercial buildings as long as one floor is still primarily commercial.

Real-estate developer Bryan Spatzer said he was excited about the rule changes. "Cities, streets, neighbourhoods ebb and flow, and I would say, yes, Saint-Denis, while it certainly has experienced its fair share of hard times, we certainly believe it's on the up and up and we're excited to be apart of it," he said.

Spatzer's company, MTRPL, owns a building on Saint-Denis. He hopes the looser rules will help him find a tenant. He's hoping his property becomes an important part of Montreal's tourism scene. "Very excited to be involved in the tourism industry in Montreal and have plans to turn the upstairs into Airbnb units because bringing tourists to Saint-Denis. ... Understanding that Airbnb is a very touchy and politicized subject we believe it's certainly only good for the street."

The storefront vacancy rate on Saint-Denis Street is still one of the highest in the city, but it has improved. A few weeks ago, one in four shops were vacant. Now, it's one in five.