Quebec is once again relaxing public health rules provincewide as the number of new daily COVID-19 cases remains stable and a greater proportion of the population is vaccinated.
The new measures, coming into effect Aug. 1, will allow for bigger crowds at various venues, both indoors and outdoors, the Health Ministry said in a Monday news release.
During events in which people remain seated in bleachers or stands, such as during amateur sporting events, capacity will be bumped up from 100 to 500 spectators for outdoor events, and from 50 to 250 for indoor events. The new crowd capacity also applies for assemblies, meetings, conventions and ceremonies, including in places of worship.
Stadiums and festivals will also see their crowd capacity increase.
Outdoor venues will be allowed to host up to 15,000 people — up from 5,000 — but will be required to follow guidelines established for each type of event.
Indoors, crowd capacity will be capped at 7,500, up from the current 3,500, with each independent section accommodating up to 500 people.
Bars restaurants and microbreweries can push back the last call by an hour and will be allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. They will, however, be required to close at 2 a.m.
Social distancing measures remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors and face coverings are required in indoor public spaces.
The Health Ministry’s announcement was welcome news for many.
In the sporting world, the Montreal Alouettes issued a statement saying they were “extremely pleased” with the decision that will allow the club to host 15,000 fans at its home opener Aug. 27. The city hasn’t seen live football action in two years as the pandemic prompted the CFL to cancel the 2020 season.
World-class tennis is also making its return to Montreal after a two-year hiatus, with the National Bank Open, formerly known as the Rogers Cup. Organizers confirmed Monday that they had received the green light from federal, provincial and municipal authorities to host the tournament. It expects to welcome 5,000 fans per session starting Aug. 7.
Montreal tournament director Eugène Lapierre expressed his thanks to all levels of government.
“Their help was invaluable, and it is the reason we are able to organize a safe tournament for everyone today,” Lapierre said in a written statement.
Not everyone, however, was pleased.
The bar owners’ association, known as the Union des Tenanciers de Bars du Québec, said allowing alcohol sales to go on for an extra hour won’t make a difference.
In a news release, the association explained that with the midnight deadline, patrons would order sufficient quantities of alcohol to last until closing time.
What bar owners would like to see, according to the association, is a return to normal operating hours, including the authorization to sell alcohol until 3 a.m.
The association argues it’s especially critical since bars cannot operate at full capacity due to social distancing regulations.
“The risks are not more present at 3:00 a.m than they are at 2:00 am or 1:00 am,” the statement reads.
For others, though, every little move counts and the easing of restrictions comes at the perfect time.
Pride week, which kicks off on Aug. 9, is considered the Grand Prix for Montreal’s Village district.
“We’ve always had bad news. We were waiting for good news and we’re really, really happy,” said Sam Nefzaoui, owner of Mon Ostie de resto, located in the Village.
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez
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