Montreal is blessed with many great restaurants. But things have been tough on them over the last decade or so. Aside from the current COVID-19 shutdown, extended street closures for needed infrastructure repairs have spelled the end of many long-time eateries.
Last evening my wife and I dropped by a local Indian restaurant. The Star of India is an establishment that I have visited countless times over the past few decades. Others have come and gone, but this place has remained. When I was a student at McGill and after my mother and I often visited, coming to be known to staff, although unbeknownst to us, as ‘Son and Mum’. Relying essentially on word of mouth the restaurant’s house specialty butter chicken has become a favourite of Montrealers.
Early last evening I was pleased to see that the restaurant is still open, albeit under strict COVID-19 reopening restrictions. Half the tables are gone, many bottles of hand sanitizer are available and, salt, pepper, and sugar have to be requested where once they were left on tables.
The same gentleman who has been greeting customers since day one, I believe he is the owner, welcomed us. We were the only people there.
While our food was being prepared he chatted with us. He described how business had been hit hard, but with the availability of pick-up, they were managing to get by. That is until the City decided to close Ste. Catherine Street to traffic on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And removed all parking spots at all times on what is the main downtown commercial street. No longer could patrons call in an order, then drive-by to pick it up at the front door.
As if things were not bad enough, the closure of Ste. Catherine has dealt a significant blow to the Star of India, and other restaurants in the area, no doubt. While we were eating the owner stood looking wistfully out of the window, and I could not help but wonder if we were having our last meal there.