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Closure of terraces in Montreal: Firefighters suspended after fiasco

A Montreal firefighter was suspended following the controversial closure of restaurant terraces on Peel Street during Grand Prix weekend.

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

He declined to provide further details about the suspended employee of the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM).

On Friday evening, SIM fire safety officers asked several businesses to close their terraces due to alleged violations of fire safety regulations, otherwise all their restaurants would have to close.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante called for an autopsy into the incident, which resulted in numerous terraces being closed on one of the busiest nights of the year for bars.

Ferreira Café was one of the establishments affected and owner Sandra Ferreira posted a tearful message about the ordeal on Instagram after clearing her crowded patio. Her video has been viewed more than two million times.

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

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

A “hard” approach

Rabouin said it was important to ensure compliance with fire safety regulations, but he was concerned about the “harsh” approach of fire officials when they visited the restaurants on Friday evening.

“As elected officials, we cannot decide the operation of the SIM, but I firmly believe there are other ways to make sure we can enforce (the rules). And coming during rush hour doesn’t seem like the best idea,” he said.

Luc Rabouin, chair 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 that’s unacceptable.”

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

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

The city granted special permission to Peel Street stores to open their patios, despite firefighters insisting they were not compliant and claiming they had warned stores 10 days before the operation.

The traders say that the situation could have been handled better by dismantling the tents.

Rabouin said city officials met with them on Monday and that the administration is looking for solutions to prevent this from happening again.

With files from Olivia O’Malley of CTV Montreal