MONTREAL -- As of Nov. 1., Quebec's bars and restaurants will be able to operate at full capacity, the province announced Thursday.

Current COVID-19 restrictions allow establishments to fill to a maximum of 50 per cent.

According to a press release from the Quebec government, bars will not only be able to pack a full house but will also be permitted to stay open until 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m.

They'll also be allowed to distance tables by one metre instead of two, and maximum of 10 people or the occupants of three private residences may gather per table.

But for karaoke and dance enthusiasts, the updated rules may not be entirely satisfying; the ban on dancing and singing remains in effect until further notice.

Nevertheless, the new restrictions are a sigh of relief for the bar and restaurant industry, which has suffered considerably as a result of the pandemic.

Kimberlie Doucet, general manager of Ye Old Orchard pub in Monkland, told CTV News she's thrilled by the news.

"[We're] a little nervous, because we haven't been at full capacity in like two years now, so we don't know what that's going to bring. But [we're] excited to get people a little more back to normal for sure," she said.

Doucet said that, due to the current capacity limits, the pub frequently has to turn patrons away.

"Especially now with the terrasse [season] being pretty much over, we're going to need that extra space."

Large venues such as the Bell Centre were permitted to operate at full capacity beginning on Oct. 8, prompting outrage among bar owners, who accused the government of enforcing a double standard.

Doucet said it's about time the bar and restaurant industry be given the same freedoms.

"It's not about public safety at this point, it's just about them getting what they want in terms of the Canadiens playing and the Bell Centre making all their money, but we're kind of always the last to come back to normal," she said.

The new health measures will still require patrons to wear masks and present their vaccine passports when entering bars and restaurants.  

"Minimal distancing and basic prevention measures remain essential. We are moving cautiously towards a return to normality, but caution is required," reads a quote from Health Minister Christian Dube included in the press release. 


The restaurant association of Quebec, the ARQ, said the loosening of restrictions will allow their businesses to finally begin "a return to normality."

"They have been rigorously applying all the sanitary measures for months. I can tell you that I was very anxious for them to be able to take advantage of the relaxations," Martin Vézina, ARQ's director of public and governmental affairs, told The Canadian Press. 

Renaud Poulin, president of the Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec agreed. 

“Today, we’re happy. It’s a good step in the right direction,” he told CTV News Thursday. 

He said bars have been closed for nine of the last 18 months and have taken a serious hit to their bottom line by not being able to operate at full capacity.

“For us it’s … a bit of fresh air. We’re getting back to what a bar is,” Poulin said. 

He said his organization will be in talks next week with public health to discuss the next thing on his wish list: allowing dancing in bars and karaoke.

-- With files from The Canadian Press.