'We’re fed up': Montreal pizzeria vows to reopen in violation of COVID-19 restrictions
A Mile End pizzeria called Keste says it will open at full capacity at the end of January, even if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.
Owner Luigi Esposito says the restaurant is taking a stand against current health measures which require dining rooms to be closed.
“It’s a bit of civil disobedience,” he said. “We’re fed up with what’s going on recently.”
Restaurants closed suddenly in late December — Keste even still has its Christmas lights up.
For Esposito, the situation is all too reminiscent of the first wave of closures in 2020.
“We followed all the rules, we went with everything that they told us. They put up all the dividers, we used masks, we closed up early, we all went home. We followed all the guidelines and we’re still in this mess two years later,” he said.
But the president of Quebec’s bar owners association hopes Keste’s ownership reconsiders.
“Please do not do that. It’s reprehensible,” said Jean-Jacques Beauchamp. “It’s not legal.”
Beauchamp is pleading with restaurants like Keste to wait a little longer. His association is imploring the province to extend aid benefits for another year.
“We might not be closed all the time,” he said. “We may have some surprises in the near future.”
But Esposito isn’t satisfied. He said he thinks the restaurant industry has become the scapegoat for other issues.
“[The government needs] to accept the fact that they can’t point their fingers at others in this situation. It’s time they pointed their fingers at themselves. Our issue is our medical system: they need to fix that rather than closing down bars, restaurants and gyms that are trying to keep people happy,” he said.
During a press conference Thursday, Premier François Legault said he would lift the province-wide curfew on Monday, but offered no good news to the restaurant industry. He said he hopes to be able to reopen restaurants "in the next few weeks."
Quebec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, reacted to Keste's plans to reopen early, urging the industry to keep holding on.
“So I would just ask this restaurant owner and all other merchants to be patient. I know it’s difficult. We have put in place the measures to help them financially. We’ve done that. So I’m just saying that to make sure that we don’t go [backward], let’s go and do those measures gradually,” Dubé said.
Esposito said he knows other restaurants that are planning to follow in his footsteps.
He plans to open Keste’s doors on Jan. 30, from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.