Back to singing and dancing in bars

Mixed response on new measures in Parc-Extension bars

Staff at Le Grand Chapeau, a sports bar on Jarry and de l’Épée, were pleased to hear the news of relaxed regulations. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST

Monday marked the first day bars and cafes could return to standing room capacity and dancing, that venues could host general admission events and karaoke bars could allow people to sing again. 

While Parc-Extension is not known for its bustling nightlife or famous clubs, there are still a few bars and cafes that dot the neighbourhood serving a local and very loyal clientele. 

According to the new rules, bars, cafes and nightclubs can not only welcome a full capacity of guests but also allow patrons to circulate freely in the bar, given they wear a mask and are fully vaccinated. 

Likewise, karaoke venues will let people sing without a mask, as long as they are at least one metre away from other people. The new measures also do away with the mandatory guest registry that had been implemented. 

While many in the restaurant and hospitality industry welcomed the news, the reception in Parc-Extension seemed lukewarm. Some businesses felt it would make things seem more normal and bring back customers while others said it wouldn’t make a lasting difference to their business.

Welcome change

Angela Meonja has been working as a bartender at Le Grand Chapeau, a sports bar on Jarry and de l’Épée, for over four years now. She is dedicated to her craft and knows her clientele well. She feels that the new measures will bring the bar where she works a little bit closer to what it was before.

“When we start again, it’s going to be more fun for them,” said Meonja of how she feels customers will be more comfortable coming back. “If they have fun, they’re gonna come back for sure,” she added, explaining that this would be good for the business.

“Even though people try to have fun, it’s not that fun to stay away from your friends,” Meonja noted of how the bar experience feels with many of the previous restrictions. “​​There were literally only four chairs at the bar, so they never had the chance to talk,” said Meonja. “When you have two drinks, you want to talk to your friend have fun and laugh,” she added.

Meonja also thinks this may encourage some new clients to come in more regularly. She works both Friday and Saturday nights and has noticed younger people and more students coming into the bar for a game of pool and some drinks. 

“This is a local bar, so full capacity or not doesn’t really make a difference,”

Local clientele

While some see the new measures as a breath of fresh air for their business, others don’t see it as affecting them as much. George Giannoumis is the owner of the small bar Cafe Loutraki further down Jarry.

Open since 1999, the intimate bar is well established in the neighbourhood and has accumulated a loyal clientele over the years. Giannoumis does not think the new measures will help him all that much. 

“This is a local bar, so full capacity or not doesn’t really make a difference,” said Giannoumis, pointing to the small parlour with only a few tables. “We work on local guys. We’re not bringing in karaoke, we’re not bringing dancing, we’re bringing in whoever here knows each other,” he noted.

George Giannoumis is the owner of the small Bar Cafe Loutraki, which has been in business since 1999. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST

No lasting change

Giannoumis says that what is hurting his business most is the government mandate to be doubly vaccinated, with many of his clients having not gotten the shot. 

“A lot of the locals have this paranoia that there’s something wrong with the vaccine, which I don’t believe in,” said the owner, adding that the vaccine passport has taken away nearly 50 percent of his client base.

Nonetheless, he recognizes the new measures could somewhat help him during large events such as sports games. “Now if I show the Greek soccer game, yeah it’ll change because now I’m gonna have as many people as I can,” said Giannoumis, but underlined that these didn’t happen often enough to make a lasting difference. 

Even with some restrictions continuing, the small business owner remains positive for the future and feels he will be able to bounce back from what has been a difficult 20 months for bar and restaurant owners. “It’s in our DNA,” said Giannoumis on a hopeful note. 

Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST