Following a 19-month shutdown, karaoke bars and nightclubs reopen in all of Quebec
On Nov. 15, dancing and karaoke singing became part of Montreal’s nightlife once again as Santé Québec continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, high school students in the city are no longer required to wear a face mask while seated in a classroom.
Karaoke bars and dance floors were forced to close in March 2020 and experienced a longer shutdown across Quebec than in most Canadian provinces and U.S. states. 19 months later, the long-awaited reopening has brought mixed results for Montreal’s nightlife.
La Muse karaoke bar, located near Concordia’s SGW campus, has yet to witness its usual, pre-pandemic volume of customers. Having worked at the establishment for nearly five years, Jack Yu said the reopening did not result in a full house of excited singers.
“It’s hard for us. We were the first ones ordered to be closed, and now we’re the last ones who are able to reopen — it’s been financially challenging all along,” said Yu in an interview with The Concordian. “We had a lot of Asian customers for karaoke, and many of these [international] students went back home, got locked down in Asia and just couldn’t come back,” he explained.
Yu also suggested that some may still be hesitant to attend such venues as the pandemic continues, adding that “the business is still taking a big hit despite being reopened.”
However, nightclubs witnessed a vibrant scene on St. Laurent Blvd. and downtown on Friday night, with hundreds of university students eager to step on the dance floor. While physical dystancing is not required inside the venues because of the vaccine passport system, Health Minister Christian Dubé made it clear that face coverings must still be worn while dancing.
Rocco Balboni, manager of the Jet Nightclub on Crescent St., said the first dancing night since the COVID-19 lockdown was largely successful for both the clients and the business.
“It was a full house and the experience has been the same as during pre-COVID days. Of course we try to enforce the mask rule, but other than that, it’s back to normal,” he said.
When asked about the unpredictability of COVID-19 and pandemic-related restrictions, Balboni noted, “We’ll take it one day at a time and thrive to push forward. That’s been our philosophy since day one, and we’ll keep going in that direction.”
High school students have also been included in the latest wave of easing restrictions, since wearing a face mask in classrooms is no longer mandatory while seated. Ora Bar, a Concordia University journalism student, has a sister who witnessed the rule changes first-hand as a Secondary 5 student at Chateauguay’s Louis-Philippe-Paré school.
“My younger sister feels quite comfortable with the new rules, and she knows that pretty much everyone is vaccinated. Her classmates already took off masks for eating in classrooms before, so she believes the risk has almost remained the same,” said Bar.
Around 85 per cent of her sister’s classmates now attend classes without a face mask. “She said the remaining students who aren’t yet comfortable with taking off their mask aren’t obliged to do so, but those who make this choice — like herself — now have a chance to live normally again,” Bar explained.
Masks still remain mandatory in elementary schools, as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11 was only approved by Health Canada on Nov. 19. Dubé announced that Quebec aims to administer one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to every child in this age category by Christmas.
Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault suggested that “most [public health] measures will disappear” for everyone in the province by early 2022, if the children’s vaccination rate reaches 80 per cent.
Photograph by Catherine Reynolds