MONTREAL -- Quebec's merchants, with the exception of restaurant owners, were quick to praise the provincial government's announcement that lockdown restrictions would soon be loosened.

Minutes after Premier Francois Legault's announcement, the Retail Council of Canada issued a statement in which it said it was “very satisfied” that retailers could re-open their doors as of Feb. 8.

“Occupancy restrictions and the impact of maintaining the curfew on opening hours are reasonable measures in this context,” they said.

The Quebec Federation of Chambes of Commerce called the re-opening of non-essential businesses a “beacon of hope.”

However, the group asked that the government clarify when businesses currently located in the province's red zones might be moved to a lower alert level.

They also called on the government to issue grants, rather than loans, as financial aid for struggling businesses that still can't re-open, such as bars and restaurants.

“If we want to maximize the possibility that these companies survive, direct financial assistance to ensure their recovery and reduce their debt is more necessary than ever,” they said.

While restaurants in six regions will be able to re-open their dining rooms on Monday, the Association of Quebec Restaurants said the government must look into a plan to re-open those in the rest of the province.

“Owners are at their wit's end and they need oxygen, too,” said association vice-president Francois Meunier in a press release.

The association said that restaurant owners have done “more than their fair share since the start of the pandemic,” including spending “exorbitant sums” to put in place public health measures required to re-open last summer.