Return of dancing, karaoke to bars “saves the whole holiday season”


Owners say getting rid of masks is the next step.

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Let’s dance.

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The Quebec government’s announcement Tuesday that dancing, karaoke and even standing will be permitted in bars as of Nov. 15 was met with relief by owners.

“I was not expecting this so fast, but I’m really happy,” said Renaud Poulin, president of La Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec.

“This saves the whole holiday season. It’s hard to take reservations (for Christmas parties) from companies. They come to socialize, sing and dance, not just to have a beer with their employees. That’s what holiday parties are all about. Companies have been hesitant to reserve. Now it will be much easier. This changes everything.”

Quebec bars and restaurants were allowed to operate at full capacity again, as of Monday. The next step, Poulin said, is getting rid of the requirement that people wear masks when they’re not seated.

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“Dancing in clubs is more complicated with a mask,” he said. “But this is a step in the right direction.”

Allowing karaoke will also help a lot of bars, Poulin explained, noting that there are 400 to 500 establishments in the province devoted to offering patrons the chance to get up on stage and sing.

These combined measures will allow bars to keep clientele around later in the evening.

“After 10 p.m., people don’t necessarily drink a lot of alcohol,” Poulin said. “They want to socialize, dance, do karaoke. They want activities. We couldn’t offer activities until now, so it was very hard. People won’t just have a beer past 1 a.m. They want to meet other people.”

Éric Le François owns a dozen bars in Montreal, including Pub West Shefford, Bar Social Verdun and Bar de Courcelle. He said allowing dancing and karaoke is “an important step,” but that there’s a way to go before things return to normal.

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“Now we will be able to have a semblance of a business,” Le François said. “Dancing is a major element, but there are still constraints. It’s not ideal to dance with masks. The next step is (getting rid of) masks.”

Peter Sergakis agrees. The owner of numerous establishments and president of the Union des tenanciers de bars du Québec welcomed Tuesday’s announcement, but urged the government to relax things further.

“We want to eliminate wearing masks,” Sergakis said. “Dancing and masks is a bit difficult. And we need the (vaccine) passport to stop. The economy has to go back to full. We have to make some money. We’ve suffered enough the past two years. But it’s a step in the right direction.”

Montreal DJ Fred Everything last played records for a crowd of dancing Montrealers at a club on March 14, 2020.

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“It was possibly the last underground house (music) event in Montreal,” he said. The DJ-producer has been vocal about getting club owners, fellow DJs and club-goers to speak up about the importance of bringing dancing back.

He saluted StereoBar and the other organizers of Open Dance Floors, a “parade protest for the right to dance,” which drew thousands of people to Jeanne-Mance Park on Oct. 23. The message of the highly mediated event appears to have been heard.

“It’s great,” Everything said. “We can finally start getting back to work. It’s been 20 months.”

Allowing dancing is about more than just bringing more business to bars, he noted. It’s about allowing artists like himself to play music, and club-goers to have a physical outlet to express themselves.

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“The thing that irritated me most is this lack of conversation (about the role of dance clubs in society), where we were just not included in any conversation. Our culture is not considered as culture. It’s not seen for what we are in Montreal’s nightlife. So I think it’s important we’re recognized.”

tdunlevy@postmedia.com

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