Montreal Terrace Closures: 2 Fire Department Employees Suspended After Fiasco

Two City of Montreal Fire Department employees have been suspended over the controversial closure of Peel Street restaurant patios during Grand Prix weekend.

“The situation was disturbing and so the city manager’s office has decided to open an internal administrative investigation to shed light on what happened because … what happened was unacceptable and so far the city manager’s office has decided to suspend one employee,” he said Luc Rabouin, chairman of the mayor’s executive committee, during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

He declined to provide further details about his suspension from the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM).

On Monday evening, Noovo Info reported that a second SIM employee had been suspended, and both were suspended with pay pending an investigation.

At around 9 p.m. on Friday evening, SIM fire officials ordered multiple businesses to close their patios for alleged fire code violations, otherwise entire restaurants would be forced to close.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has asked for an autopsy after the incident that left many terraces closed on one of the busiest nights of the year for bars.

Ferreira Café was one of the establishments targeted, and owner Sandra Ferreira posted a tearful message on Instagram about her ordeal after the packed terrace was evacuated. Her video has garnered over two million views.

In an interview with CTV News on Monday, she described how upsetting it was to kick out customers.

“I was very angry and that’s why I started crying. And I started crying in front of the men when they told me to evacuate,” she told CTV News.

A “heavy-handed” approach.

Rabouin said ensuring compliance with fire safety regulations is important, but expressed concern about the “tough” approach taken by fire officials during a visit to restaurants on Friday evening.

“As elected officials, we don’t get to decide how SIM works, but I honestly think there are other ways to make sure we’re able to enforce (the rules), and coming in at peak times doesn’t seem like the best idea,” he said.

Luc Rabouin, chairman of the mayor’s executive committee, speaks to reporters on Monday, June 10, 2024 (CTV News)

“It’s a shock for them, it’s a shock for us,” he added, referring to the way the situation was handled. “We think this is unacceptable.”

Alain Creton, owner of Chez Alexandre, says he has never experienced anything like this in his 47 years of business and hopes it will never happen again.

“It’s a shame. Shame on us, shame on Montreal,” he said, adding that he lost 75 percent of his business on Friday night.

The city gave Peel Street businesses special permission to open their terraces, even though the fire brigade insisted they were not complying with the regulations and warned the businesses 10 days before the intervention.

Merchants say it could have been handled better once the tents were removed.

Rabouin said that city officials met with them on Monday and that the administration is looking for solutions to prevent such situations in the future.

Meanwhile, opposition party Ensemble Montreal said city officials should question fire officials before council so the public can get answers about a “monumental fiasco” that has tarnished the city’s reputation.

Julien Hénault-Ratelle, the party’s economic development critic, blamed the “shameful” incident on a lack of coordination and communication between the fire prevention team and the municipal authorities, led by Plante.

He said her administration should question fire officials before the council so the public can get answers about the “monumental fiasco” that tarnished the city’s reputation.

He said the closure, while affecting only a few restaurants, represents just the latest challenge for struggling downtown businesses. “There are problems with cleanliness and coexistence with homeless people in downtown Montreal, and here we have a workplace, right next to the street,” he told reporters. “All of these issues are very difficult for all business owners.”

With files from Olivia O’Malley of CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press