MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Business owners in Montreal say they are feeling unfairly targeted by Quebec’s new policing measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Operation OSCAR, which launched this weekend, involves police officers keeping a close watch on more than 1,000 establishments in the province to ensure public-health guidelines are being enforced.
But some bar and restaurant owners say police should focus their attention elsewhere.
“I don’t get why they’re putting pressure on us,” said Rheane Portelance, the general manager at SuWu. “We’re doing our very best to make sure our clients feel secure when they come here. I don’t think clients feel comfortable when the police come in.”
Officers in civilian clothing are surveying bars and restaurants in Quebec’s eight “yellow zone” regions – locations that are in a state of warning for rising COVID cases. That includes Montreal and Laval.
“I feel like we are just the target,” said Portelance. “I don’t feel we’re working with them. I feel like they’re working against us.
“They’re just doing their job and I get that they have to make sure we follow the rules. But there are private parties everywhere, people going to the cottage. There’s something against bars and restaurant that we don’t get. I feel safer here than in a house party.”
The province however has pointed to private gatherings – not bars and restaurants – as the cause for the uptick in cases.
That has bar owner Ziggy Eichenbaum seriously wondering why the government isn’t focusing efforts there.
“What’s going to happen to the people that leave the bars and restaurants?” said Eichenbaum, the owner of Ziggy’s Pub. “I’m sure one guy will turn around and say, ‘hey let’s go to my house.’”
Quebec’s public security minister says the province is still trying to control illegal private gatherings. Private party hosts are currently subject to fines ranging from $400 to $6,000, but officers do not have permission to enter people’s homes.
Some restaurateurs are welcoming the increased scrutiny from police. Ilene Polansky of Maestro S.V.P. says she’s seen too many establishments breaking the rules.
“Just after my shift, driving down Saint Laurent, there are a couple of restaurants you could just see no social distancing in the lineup,” said Polansky. “Inside, you could see it was so full. Even one restaurant had four benches at the window, and you could see the full benches side to side.”