New Years Eve comes early in Quebec to beat new restrictions on bars

Videos on social media show people dancing, drinking and counting down the new year before new limits took effect

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Parties abounded in Quebec this past weekend as people raced an announcement by authorities that venues including bars, cinemas and concert halls were to close on Monday at 5 p.m.

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As COVID-19 cases soared – hitting an all-time daily high of 5,043 new cases in Quebec on Tuesday – concern was overlooked by hundreds of party-goers attending various “end of the universe”, early New Year’s Eve events ahead of Monday’s renewed restrictions.

“It is disappointing to hear that, when the premier and the minister of health announce that we have to restrict social measures because things are out of control, it doesn’t occur to those members of the public to be responsible or use common sense, and that they decided to frolic carelessly, “said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center, on Sunday.

“This will only lead to more transmission and more hospitalizations in the next few weeks, making the situation worse.”

For example, Kampai Garden, a club in downtown Montreal, held a “Happy New Year or Whatever” party on Friday and Saturday night. Videos of the event went viral on social media showing a room packed with people dancing, drinking and counting down for the new year.

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The co-owner and managing director of Kampai Garden, Philippe Allard-Riendeau, issued an apology on Monday following the eventful weekend.

“We sincerely apologize for the lack of judgment and sensibility shown during our” last night “party held prior to the announcements of new measures that will take into effect this week,” he told TVA Nouvelles.

Blvd44, another popular Montreal nightclub, also held a controversial “last dance” party in anticipation of the ensuing lockdown measures.

The event’s cover art, which was ultimately removed from the club’s Facebook page, features Quebec’s Premier François Legault edited into a ballerina costume. While the venue ensured a limited capacity party following the province’s COVID-19 measures, the event still took place.

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An edited photo of Quebec’s Premier François Legault used as the event’s cover art
An edited photo of Quebec’s Premier François Legault used as the event’s cover art Photo by Blvd44/Facebook

“After suffering financially due to government restrictions, we are preparing for the worst, or partial lockdown,” the Facebook post stated on the day of the party. “This is why we will take advantage of this last day to sell our merchandise and generate revenue to be able to pay our employees.”

Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin tweeted a statement saying “last chance parties are a bad idea.”

“Young people and people who are doubly vaccinated are still at risk of getting infected and being hospitalized, so seeing images on social media of people in dance clubs is perplexing.”

On Monday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé stated that the government had to take action in order to prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed, as the infection rate seems to be doubling every few days.

“The situation is critical. The explosion of cases is overwhelming, ”Dubé said in a news conference.

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