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A law that changed the industry approach

The new measures have significantly changed some aspects

in the management of an establishment.







Photo 1: M. Daniel Moreau de la Boite à Chansons et M. Marcellin Bourdon du Bar Billard Terminus.
Photo 2: M. François Fortier, propriétaire du bar les Quatre Jeudis et M. Alexandre Leblanc, directeur général.

May 2006 was a defining period for all tenants. The Quebec government adopted legislation that sent a shock wave through the industry. After decades of use of tobacco products in bars, taverns and pubs in Quebec, it was now forbidden to smoke in those establishments.

An outcry from customers objecting to the law and threatening not to frequent these establishmentsanymore had created great concern among all tenants. Despite public appearances and threats of lawsuits, nothing could undermine our politicians who, for once, were all united at the National Assembly. The tenants were faced with a “fait accompli” and the way they managed their establishments had reached an important juncture.

The shock was violent. Although the majority of the population was in favor of this bill, fact remained that some clients did not agree with the government decision and preferred not to go to bars, which prompted a significant reduction of goodwill for the industry. A decline that, nevertheless, was no gene­ralized. Establish­ments whose clientele was a younger audience prospered better through the crisis compared to those whose clientele was older smokers. In this market we have seen a collapse in sales that, in some cases, has experienced declines of up to 35%. Inevitably, some owners have had to resign themselves to close shop. On the other hand, others were able to get out while the going was good, like the Quatre Jeudis of Gatineau (known as Old Hull). « We have manyworkers in our 5-7. Changes made to our terrace helped facilitate coexistence between smokers and nonsmokers, which has allowed us to weather the crisis better, compared to other establishments, » said Alexandre Leblanc, the director general.

In addition to suffering a decline in sales, establishments have had to substantially modify aspects of their business because of the new measures. Overnight, tenants had to enforce new regulations that were not popular with some of their clients, particularly their employees. « From the beginning, we had to enforce their law in their place.” says Andrée Anctil from Hotel Central Benoit in St-Michel-des-Saints. A huge task for thetenants, some have failed adequately and, as a result, substantial fines were imposed on them. Customeroffenders sought out isolated areas of the establishments and tenants were forced to increase supervision in these places.

The limited information provided by the government to the public has forced management and employees at the affected establishments to educate their customers about what it is they were now forbidden to do. Many people would go outside of the facility to smoke and would bring their alcoholic beverages with them. Others would go and smoke in lobbies, a behaviour prohibited by law. « Our terrace has been very helpful because it has enabled our team of doormen to offer a solution to clients that do not want to leave their drink behind when they go outside to smoke, » said Daniel Moreau, Boîte à Chansons de Gatineau. Increasedsecurity in parking areas was also necessary because some clients kept alcoholic drinks in theirvehicles and tookadvantage of theopportunity to go smoke and consume it. The morning would show countless cans and bottles littering the parking lot. In the first weeks of the law coming into play, many businesses had a bad start with their municipalities because of cigarette butts that customers threw in front of their establishments and on sidewalks. Adjustments had to be made to restore social peace between merchants and city officials.

The law also changed the behaviour of individuals. When they were outside smoking, they enjoyed theopportunity to socialize. These outdoor events would become noisy and several establishments were victims of noise complaints, while others would be summoned before the authorities of the RACJ to explain. Even today, tenants must be vigilant when it comes to this aspect.

The industry’s attitude has been exemplary thus facilitating

the implementation of the reform.

The ban on smoking in public places has not onlyreduced the turnover of establishments, but alsoincreased their fees. Still, the industry has not expe­rienced theonslaught, because the terraces were the element that facilitated the transition of behaviours of the clientele frequenting bars.

The industry’s attitude has been exemplary thus facilitating the implementation of the reform. This result is mainly due to the commitment of owners that haveinvested heavily into building outdoor smoking areas and terraces.

Prohibiting smoking on terraces is not a measure that would greatly improve the health of a population as the Quebec climate permits enjoying terraces only a few months a year. Moreover, the ban would destroy the harmonious atmosphere that currently prevails between smokers and nonsmokers. Thegovernment should instead consider other measures that would be more appropriate and appreciated by the population.

By Richard Poirier

Par: admin

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