Peel Street businesses can put tents back on terrasses after rough F1 weekend

Fire prevention officers said the issue at hand was around the tent tops which are too close to the buildings, making them a fire hazard. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

Peel Street businesses coming off a hectic, emotional F1 weekend just got some good news from their mayor — though it may be too little, too late.

Last Friday evening, the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SSIM), the city's fire safety service, forced several businesses to shut down their downtown terrasses because the tents covering them were deemed a fire hazard given how close they were to the buildings.

The next day, they were allowed to reopen their terrasses — without the tents — and the entire ordeal led to fines, confusion and thousands of dollars in lost revenue during one of the biggest events of the year.

In a statement on Thursday, the city announced that the tents will come back in the coming days, with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante acknowledging that the "abrupt" manner in which the terrasses were closed was "unjustifiable" and "absolutely does not reflect the way we should be supporting our merchants."

The city and its fire service have found a way to prevent the tents from being a fire hazard.

Meeting with reporters on Peel Street a little after 11 a.m., Plante said parking spots would be removed to allow the existing terrasses to remain while establishing the required distance between the tents and the buildings.

The tents should be back up as of Monday.

The mayor stressed it was important to make sure safety regulations were respected.

"But the cavalier way that some employees of the fire safety service just said 'Let's stop everything, right now, even though there are clients on the terrasse,' that is unacceptable," Plante said.

The business owners who were affected by the sudden shutdown — including Sandra Ferreira who owns Ferreira Café and was hit with a $1,326 ticket — thought they had permission from the city to operate the terrasses the way they were set up.

Since last week's incident, two members of the SSIM have been suspended.

The city says the internal investigation looking into what happened last Friday is still ongoing.

When asked if businesses would be compensated for what happened, Plante said the situation wasn't "black and white," given that there were terrrasses that violated the rules. She then emphasized the need to establish better communication between the SSIM, Montreal police and businesses moving forward.

The leader of Ensemble Montréal, the Opposition party at city hall, said the city green-lighting the return of the tents doesn't change the fact that "Montreal has already lost face."

Aref Salem said in a statement that he wants the SSIM and the central Ville-Marie borough — for which Plante is the mayor because she is Montreal's mayor — to be called to a city council meeting to answer for what happened.