Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

2024 has barely begun when at least five restaurants and cafes in the greater Montreal area have already announced their closure. A trend sustained by a difficult economic context.

 Times are tough for restaurateurs in Greater Montreal

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Jean-François Girard has been the owner of Beaufort Bistro since 2014.

  • Marie-Isabelle Rochon (View profile)Marie-Isabelle Rochon

The premises where the Beaufort restaurant is located Bistro, on Plaza St-Hubert, in Montreal, is almost empty. Most of the tables and chairs are gone, as is the artwork that hung on the wall.

At the back of the room, the owner, Jean-François Girard, empties his fridges. Bananas and strawberries, I'll get that for you, I'll put that in there? he asks employees of the Maison du Père, an organization helping people experiencing homelessness, who came to collect food that is still fit for consumption.

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Jean-François Girard empties the fridges of his restaurant. Unsold items are donated to charity.

The scene seems heartbreaking, but Jean-François Girard has a light heart. You know, for me, it’s not sad, he confides. I can't wait to hand over the keys […] so I can finally rest, think about what I really want to do.

In 2014, Mr. Girard became the owner of Beaufort Bistro, then located on rue Saint-Zotique. The restaurant then moved to the current premises, rue Saint-Hubert. The restaurateur invested nearly $600,000 to renovate it. On the second floor, he planned to open a secret bar.

But the last year has been unbearable, he explains. Losses piled up from month to month, leading to late payments. Its clientele was there, but fixed costs continued to increase. His rent went from $2,000 to $8,000 a month in one year.

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After months of looking for solutions, Beaufort Bistro declared bankruptcy. I didn't even pay myself, emphasizes Mr. Girard. I mean, after a year of working 7 days a week or 6 days a week, exhausted, you can't even draw an income. The financial burden had become insurmountable.

The report by Marie-Isabelle Rochon

Jean-François Girard is not the only one to have announced the closure of his establishment.

Thursday morning, we learned that the café-boutique Les Malins, avenue du Mont-Royal, will close its doors on February 8.

The day before, the group Brasserie T! announced the closure of its three branches, in Montreal, Brossard and Sainte-Thérèse, due to operating costs and the negative effects of inflation.

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The Brasserie T group! announced the closure of its three branches.

Montreal restaurateurs could be hit harder than elsewhere in Quebec: competition and the cost of premises there are more important. Not to mention that many restaurateurs are carrying significant debt following repeated closures during the pandemic.

We are not seeing an increase in the number of files in the regions, but we know that in Montreal particularly, there are a lot of requests to analyze what we are doing with the situation, explains Pier-Paul Belzil-Lacasse, authorized trustee in insolvency at Lacasse and associates.

The vice-president of public and government affairs of the Association Restauration Québec, Martin Vézina, notes that fall 2023 is x27;is marked by a notable drop in traffic in restaurants. If there is an economic slowdown lasting more than a year, then yes, the sector is going to be hit hard and there could be even more significant closures than what is expected. ;we see today, he believes.

  • Marie-Isabelle Rochon (View profile)Marie-Isabelle RochonFollow

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