Quebec's liquor board says it will do its best to render a ruling next week on whether to authorize the city of Montreal to go ahead with a summer pilot project allowing certain bars to open until 6 a.m. and serve alcohol until 5:30 a.m.
Testimony wrapped up this morning after two days of hearings during which five intervenors explained why they were against the pilot project which is supposed to begin next weekend if approved.
About 20 bars on Crescent St. downtown and on St. Denis St. in the Quartier Latin district have signed up to take part in the pilot project.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving said the current hours are working and that if bars want to stay open until 6 a.m. without serving alcohol between 3 and 6 in the morning, they're fine with that too. But national president Angeliki Souranis said that a later last call would just shift the problems they see from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.
"The difference is there is an increased accessibility to the alcohol, there's more time to drink, we really don't know what security is in place," Souranis told reporters.
"We definitely feel very strongly about Montreal being a party city or a destination city but that really shouldn't be at the cost to residents or victims. The reality is that people will be on our roads going to work, taking their kids to hockey tournaments on the weekend, and then you have somebody who perhaps has been drinking all night on the same roads. We don't think that's the answer."
MADD cited a similar experiment in the UK where bars were allowed to serve alcohol around the clock. The group said it was "disastrous" with overwhelmed police and emergency services and more alcohol-related accidents on the road.
Alexandre Besnard, who owns over a dozen bars and resto-bars including trendy Japanese izakaya/bar Flyjin and Plateau pool hall Boul Noir, said he wasn't asked to participate in the pilot project but wouldn't be interested anyway.
"I don't see the profitability," Besnard told commissioners.
Besnard said it would cost more to pay staff to stay open all night than it would actually bring in, arguing that disposable income is limited among young adults who would be the ones most attracted to the new hours.
Retiree Maurice Poissant has a condo close to two bars in the Quartier Latin district where he's lived for over 20 years. He told commissioners that several times during the weekends, he gets a bunch of bar-goers making a racket out on the street late at night, as if they were in their own backyard.
Poissant also questioned the value of measuring the success of the pilot project over the course of three or four weekends.
"The best way to judge it would be a complete cycle that includes New Year's, Valentine's Day, St. Jean Baptiste, F1, back to school, Christmas," Poissant said.
"You can't tell by just a few weekends."
Poissant also questioned the promised increased police presence, saying they don't even have that now. He said people living near the bars taking part in the pilot project should be consulted.
"Would you want your son or daughter drinking alcohol between 3 and 6 in the morning at a bar in Montreal?" Poissant asked.
"I say no."