First the lockdown, now this? Montreal bar wants court dates postponed

Meyer Billurcu wants the city to cut him a break. He's asked for the city to postpone two coming court dates to contest fines for noise complaints.

Meyer Billurcu, co-owner of Bar Le Ritz PDB.

In normal times, the 300-capacity venue is well-used by the Montreal music scene and touring acts. Billurcu is co-founder of indie show promoter Blue Skies Turn Black, and has a direct line to the music community here and internationally.

While he’s not complaining about having to close for most of this year, he believes it’s unfair for the city to push ahead with processing tickets against businesses like his that are just trying to stay alive.

“It feels like we already paid our debt,” Billurcu said. “It’s like, god damn, you’ve punished us enough. What more can you take from us? You’re trying to get maybe two grand from a business that has not been in operation because we’re trying to do our job and be responsible during the pandemic?”

Le Ritz PDB, which opened as Il Motore in 2008 and in its current form in 2014, is on a desolate part of Jean-Talon St. W. between St-Laurent Blvd. and Parc Ave. It never had problems with noise until around 2017. By then, the neighbourhood was well in the throes of gentrification, which brought noise complaints from the venue’s new neighbours.

“I’m pretty sure it was just one person doing it,” Billurcu said.

He contested most of those fines, and saw many of the tickets dismissed in court. Nonetheless, he and his partners tried to cooperate with the city by investing money in soundproofing the space.

“It was working,” he said, explaining that the bar received no more noise complaints from July 2019 until the lockdown began in March.

Originally, Billurcu says he wasn’t even asking the city to toss out the tickets, but merely to put off the court date until his business can reopen and begin making revenue again. Now, given what he feels is the intransigence of the city, he would like the fines dropped altogether.

“I want it to go away,” he said. “Please leave us alone. We’re already hurting. We don’t need more stress like this.”

Giuliana Fumagalli , borough mayor for Villeray—St-Michel—Parc-Extension, says she has no power over the tickets or the court dates; but she would like to help Le Ritz PDB regarding future noise complaints.

“There are lots of condos going up,” she said. “Meyer and the Ritz … have been there a long time. They’re fixtures, and such a positive element in the community. We need them.

Meyer Billurcu just wants the city to cut him a break.

As co-owner of indie concert venue Bar Le Ritz PDB, which has not reopened since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March, he’s asked for the city to postpone two coming court dates to contest fines for noise complaints.

The city rejected his request to put off the first hearing, Nov. 4, and has not yet responded regarding the second one, on Nov. 19.

“With everything going on — we’ve been closed seven months,” Billurcu said. “I can’t believe this is something they’re trying to pursue.”

The fines are for $985 each, which is money the bar just doesn’t have right now, he explained. Although Le Ritz PDB could have opened when rules for bars relaxed during the summer, Billurcu and his partners decided to remain closed.

“With the rules that you have to keep two metres apart for social distancing, we did the math and we could have let in 15 or 20 people,” he said. “For our business, it wasn’t worth it and we didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Luckily, that was a smart decision because they ended up asking everyone to lock down again.”

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