Confusion over terrasse bylaw leads to emotional night on Peel Street during F1

Fire prevention officers say the issue at hand is around the tent tops which are too close to the buildings making them a fire hazard. The restaurants can reopen their terrasses if the tents come down.  (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Fire prevention officers say the issue at hand is around the tent tops which are too close to the buildings making them a fire hazard. The restaurants can reopen their terrasses if the tents come down. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

A restaurant owner says she feels embarrassed for her city after she, along with others, were forced to close their terrasses on Peel Street on the very first night of the Montreal Grand Prix.

Ferreira Cafe owner Sandra Ferreira posted a video to Instagram Friday evening just after fire prevention officers with the city's fire safety service (SSIM) fined her for failing to take down the tent covering her patio after it was determined it posed a fire hazard.

"There's no vision for our city," said an emotional Ferreira in the video. "I find it cruel to have waited two to three weeks, I don't know, to tell me this when the restaurant is full," she said.

She was in disbelief at the number of fire prevention officers who showed up to her restaurant, she told CBC News, adding that she didn't have the heart to ask her clients to leave. According to her, she had the proper permits for the terrasse.

An emotional evening and a $1,326 ticket later, Ferreira says she's still confused over what happened.

According to Guy Lapointe, a division chief with the Montreal fire department, the restaurant owners were told over a week ago their tent tops were not compliant with bylaw regulations because they weren't at least three metres away from the building. He says he understands the work restaurant and bar owners put into their businesses and that shutting them down is a last resort.

"We don't want to go there, that's not what we're looking for. We work to find solutions with the owners and proprietors. In this case there was no other possibility — the terrasse was packed."

Ferreira's takeaway from that initial visit was different, she says. The fire prevention officers told her they would be back last Monday to make sure the tents were taken down, however, they never showed up. Additionally, bar and restaurant owners on Peel Street were under the impression they had "special permission" for the tents, she said.

Sandra Ferreira says that she and other bar and restaurant owners on Peel Street were under the impression the city had given them a pass and allowed them to keep their terrasse tents up over Grand Prix weekend despite bylaws.
Sandra Ferreira says that she and other bar and restaurant owners on Peel Street were under the impression the city had given them a pass and allowed them to keep their terrasse tents up over Grand Prix weekend despite bylaws.

Sandra Ferreira says that she and other bar and restaurant owners on Peel Street were under the impression the city had given them a pass and allowed them to keep their terrasse tents up over Grand Prix weekend despite bylaws. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

That's what restaurant owner and president of the Peel Street Merchants Association Alain Creton said he was told by the Downtown Business Development Corporation (SDC) who supposedly met with the city, which agreed to leave the terrasses alone over the weekend.

"We have been suffering from the work and construction on the corner of Peel and St-Catherine so this time we say you know [with] a boom in our hearts we're going to make the place beautiful," he said.

The SDC's president Glenn Castanheira said SSIM's handling of the situation, especially during the Grand Prix weekend, raised concerns over the economic vitality of some businesses downtown, he said in a statement to Radio-Canada. Castanheira did not address his meeting with the city.

Lapointe says the issue really is the tent tops, but according to Ferreira, the terrasse isn't viable without them given the weather forecast and that dining experiences at the fine dining restaurant can last up to a couple hours.

"We have a chance in Montreal to have Grand Prix in Montreal, like F1 is here, I do not understand why the regulation, everything is so strict," she said. "Never did we put anyone in danger with our terrasse, I'm really in shock."

Montreal's fire safety service will continue to deploy its fire prevention officers in a special operation during the Grand Prix weekend, as thousands of tourists flood Montreal's downtown, to make sure bars and restaurants are following the proper regulations.

"If they remove the tent top today, they can operate tonight that's not an issue, but for us we can't compromise on the safety of the population," said Lapointe.

A spokesperson for the mayor's office says they were "shaken" by Ferreira's testimony and that the fire department will continue to speak with the restaurant owners to come to a solution that keeps everyone safe.

In the meantime, Ferreira says she's hoping for good weather and that they can all still make the most of the Grand Prix weekend.