MONTREAL -- It's the question that many Montrealers are asking themselves: when will the city's terraces open? It's a query that's all the more pressing for restaurant owners, whose businesses have struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year. But so far, no answer has come.

A coalition representing over 10,000 restaurants is now calling on Quebec Public Health to release a prospective timeline for re-opening so they can begin to prepare for the summer season.

“Things look like they're getting a lot better. We're closer to the end than the beginning,” said Adrian Saab of La Cage Brasserie Sportive. “I think opening the patios and having a date or tentative date so we can plan how we're going to do this... it's not going to happen overnight.”

Owners said the issue comes with a time crunch, as many have had to lay off staff. They fear that if they don't start hiring students looking for summer jobs now, they'll miss the window of opportunity.

“If we don't open soon, at least partially, they're going to find work elsewhere,” said Richard Scofield of St-Hubert Group. “I have restaurants in orange zones that are allowed to open their dining rooms and they're not, because we don't have enough staff to do it.”

A spokesperson for Public Health told CTV News that it's too early to set a date as infection numbers are still too high and variants present a new wrinkle. They added that the issue with moving too fast is that restaurants could be forced to shut down just weeks after re-opening if case numbers rise.

But restaurateurs said they need to start preparing to welcome guests once again.

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