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Quebec curfew impacts c-stores – here’s what you need to know

Shutterstock_curfewQuebec dépanneurs are feeling the repercussions of Quebec’s curfew.

According to a CBC report, “owners say their most lucrative hours are about to be taken away, as most residents are required to be in their homes from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. each night.

“The four hours until 11 p.m. have the highest turnover. Now, they are cutting it,” says Michel Youssef, the owner of Dépanneur Beau Soir in St-Henri.

Until now, convenience stores across the country have been spared the tight restrictions imposed on other retailers. While c-stores have had to work hard to make their stores safe and limit the number of customers inside at one time, they were deemed an essential service in the early days of the pandemic.

In fact, c-stores were lauded for their role helping Canadians access the products and services they needed, especially when some of the larger grocery stores were plagued with line-ups and shortages on everything from baking supplies to cleaning products and, yes, toilet paper.

“I hope people will adapt to the changes and come a bit earlier to pick up their things, otherwise it’ll result in a big drop in sales,” Youssef told CBC.

With the curfew that come into play on Saturday January 9 and is expected to remain in place until February 8.

In a statement on it’s website, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada outlined how the issues affects the industry:

  • c-store employees’ shift must end at 7:30pm so that they are able to respect the curfew
  • the Quebec government will be providing a special pass for workers that need to travel to and  from their workplace past curfew; these passes should be available in the next few days
  • dépanneurs operating a gas station will be allowed to remain open beyond the curfew are to sell all products except alcoholic beverages past 8pm
  • c-stores will not be held responsible for policing clients who should not be out during curfew
  • store gas stations will not be permitted to deliver during curfew hours.

Quebec is the only province with a curfew in place at the moment, however, as numbers continued to spiral in Ontario, there was speculation one could be imposed in the province.

Last week, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada Convenience wrote to the Ford government asking the Ontario “to exempt gas stations and convenience stores from further restrictions, including a curfew, should one be considered.” The organization points out that c-stores provide essential goods to frontline and shift workers 24 hrs/day.

On January 12, Ontario declared a State of Emergency and new measures, but stopped short of imposing a curfew. C-stores and gas stations would remain open as essential services.


Quebec to ban vaping flavours and restrict nicotine content



Quebec intends to ban the sale of flavoured vaping cartridges and limit nicotine content in an effort to stem an increase in youth vaping in the province.

A recent report from the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control found that a third (32%) of high school students consume tobacco products or its by-products

“With the growing popularity of vaporization products, especially among young people, it becomes imperative to act to prevent a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine because of these products,” Health Minister Christian Dubé said December 9, 2020 in a statement.

According the Montreal Gazette, “in 2015, Quebec banned the sale of flavoured tobacco products and saw a reduction in the number of high-schoolers smoking such products within 30 days. Similar action should be taken with regard to vaping, the public health researchers recommended.”

With that in mind, the plan is to ban the sale of flavoured vaping products and limit nicotine concentration to 20 mg/mL (a cigarette contains about eight mg of nicotine).

The Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) urged the government to continue to allow the sale of flavoured vaping products in order to service ex-smokers who might otherwise return to cigarettes.

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Quebec to ban sale of gas powered cars by 2035

Quebec will ban the sale of new, gasoline-powered cars and SUVs by the year 2035 as part of a $6.7-billion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Premier Francois Legault announced Monday.

Legault said the new policy will help the province meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 37.5% over 1990 levels by 2030. But the premier admitted that the new measures will only move Quebec 42% of the way to its goal. He said he hopes technological advances and added investment from Ottawa will help close the gap.

“We have a duty to the next generations,” Legault told a news conference alongside Environment Minister Benoit Charette. “As I said when I was getting sworn in as premier, I could not look my two sons in the eye if I didn’t make efforts to meet this enormous challenge that all of us on the planet have.”

Legault’s $6.7-billion plan —to be spread over five years —depends heavily on the province’s hydroelectric resources powering large swaths of the economy. More than half the funding announced Monday —about $3.6 billion —will be invested in the transportation sector, for such things as subsidies to encourage individuals and businesses to purchase electric cars, trains and taxis.

Legault dismissed criticism that electric vehicles are costly, have a limited range and can be problematic for people who live in apartments and don’t have access to a wide supply of charging stations. He said the state will continue to offer subsidies and that he expected battery technology to improve over the next 15 years.

The government’s investment will also pay for more electric charging stations and to convert buildings to electric heating, he said.

Legault said Quebec’s previous target —reducing greenhouse gases by 20% over 1990s levels by 2020 —has been missed. Data from 2015 to 2017 indicated emissions were increasing—a sign Quebec is “going in the wrong direction,” the premier said.

Legault blamed that failure on previous governments. “For the first time in Quebec,” he said, “we have a plan that is costed, both in terms of costs and impact in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.”

The Opposition quickly seized on the fact the government’s plan meets fewer than half the state’s climate goals, calling Monday’s announcement “neither realistic nor ambitious.”

“Hard to agree when only 42% of the path forward is known,” Liberal climate change critic, Carlos Leitao, wrote on Twitter. He also denounced what he said was as a lack of commitment to ensuring Quebec is carbon-neutral by 2050.

Quebec Solidaire, the second opposition party, said the government isn’t doing enough to discourage private vehicle use. The party said the state should tax the owners of SUVs to encourage them to buy cars that are smaller and pollute less.

Legault replied that he preferred incentives to punishment, while Charette said Quebec’s territory is large and people outside big cities rely on larger vehicles to move around on tough terrain.

Despite it being panned by the opposition, the plan received positive reviews from a group representing business leaders in the province. The Conseil du patronat du Quebec said in a statement the government’s plan is “ambitious” and presents “new economic opportunities tied to sustainable development.”



C-stores shouldn’t be responsible for policing mask rules: CICC



The Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC) is speaking out against the decision of some provinces and municipalities to make retailers liable for customers’ refusal to wear face masks.

“The first priority of the small business operators we represent is the health and safety of our employees and our customers. Convenience retailers have continually made their best efforts to ensure that customers and staff comply with all public health orders, including the increasing number of mandatory face mask requirements being implemented across the country,” said Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the CICC.

Quebec is the first province to make mask-wearing mandatory in all public spaces, including retail stores, as of July 18, 2020. Businesses will be expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the health directive.

Several municipalities across Ontario, including Toronto, are also making mask mandatory and putting the onus on retailers to enforce compliance or refuse service. Those who are not in compliance risk fines.

The move unfairly places the ultimate responsibility for customer compliance on small business owners, who not also face financial penalties, but, as is surfacing in several media report, physical and verbal abuse from some customers who refuse to comply.

“Individual retailers should not be held liable for customers’ refusal to comply with public health orders,” said Kothawala. “Convenience retailers should be required to ensure that they have a policy in place, that the policy is communicated to all staff and customers, and that their best efforts to ensure compliance have been made, but ultimately it should be an individual’s responsibility to comply with the law.”

Some people, including children under 12 and those with certain medical conditions, are not required to wear masks, but how is a retailer or small business owner expected to know who falls into this category?

“Given the variety of human rights exemptions to this policy that exist, and the inability of retailers to demand proof of exemption, it is unreasonable to expect customer service staff to perform the duties of the police or risk significant fines,” says Kothawala, adding that operators and staff are risk of abuse if they are forced to confront shoppers not wearing masks. “We have a responsibility to protect our employees and customers from these types of altercations. Our role should be to de-escalate these situations, not to play part-time police.”


Quebec makes masks mandatory in public indoor spaces starting Saturday



Quebec has become the first Canadian province to make mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public places for people aged 12 years and older.
Premier Francois Legault said the new directive enters into effect Saturday – just in time for the province’s annual construction holiday.
Businesses will be expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the health directive, Legault told reporters Monday in Montreal.
He said the government is considering imposing fines on individuals beginning in August. People who for medical reasons cannot wear masks are exempt from the new rule, Legault added.
The premier said his government held off making mask-wearing indoors mandatory until now because it wanted to impose restrictions on Quebecers gradually. The new rules enter into effect July 18, at the beginning of the two-week construction holiday, during which Quebecers are expected to travel around the province with their families.
“It’s easier to wear a mask than to return to being confined,” Legault said, adding the province has seen a slight increase in the number of daily new COVID-19 cases.
“I know it’s summer,” he said. “It’s holidays. It’s not fun to wear a mask, but it’s essential to avoid going backwards.”
Quebec reported 100 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, as well as one additional death. That brings the province’s total deaths to 5,628, while infections reached 56,621. Hospitalizations declined by one to 305, with 21 people in intensive care.
Legault said the new rule applies in all indoor settings across the province, including restaurants – but only when patrons are moving around.
“When we are sitting down, when we are at a table, we can take it off,” he said. “But when we get up to use the bathroom or to leave, we put it back on.”
Groups representing business owners raised concerns about the responsibility of enforcing the measure, suggesting it places an additional burden on retailers who are already struggling.
In a statement, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that while business owners respect the need to limit a second wave of the pandemic, “public health is a shared responsibility.”
“To ask a small business to be entirely responsible for consumer actions, which are beyond its reasonable control, and to impose fines doesn’t seem very equitable,” said Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam, a policy analyst for the group.
The Conseil du Patronat du Quebec, which represents employers, said responsibility should be shared between clients and business owners, and called on the government to emphasize education rather than fines.
Legault said it was necessary to rely on businesses because “police cannot be in all the shops at the same time.” He said enforcement would likely begin with warnings and progress to fines.
As for retail or restaurant workers who are confronted with recalcitrant customers, Legault said they should call police.
On Monday, mask-wearing also became mandatory inside public transit across the province. At the entrance to Montreal’s St-Laurent subway station, however, there was little evidence anything had changed.
Around noon, there were no employees or prominent signs indicating the new rules as transit users, some wearing masks and some not, came in and out through the turnstiles.
Masks were more in evidence as rush hour began, and an announcement could be heard over the loudspeaker informing transit users of the measure.
The province has granted transit users a two-week grace period before people can be denied boarding for failing to wear a face covering. Legault said he expected a similar period would also be granted to allow the public to get used to the wider rule before fines are imposed.

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Socially connected: Dépanneur R. Prud’homme

Located on the edge of Quebec’s vast wilderness, Dépanneur R. Prud’homme combines a modern approach with small-town charm

How is it that a family-owned convenience store and gas station in a remote corner of Quebec has generated more than 40,000 followers on its Facebook page, making it by far the most popular dépanneur on social media in la belle province?

“I think it reflects the quality of our store and products and the way we treat our employees and customers,” says Vicky Beauséjour, who helps run Dépanneur R. Prud’homme, a family business owned and operated by her parents, Éric Beauséjour and Nathalie Richard.

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Located in the small town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints, a two-hour drive north of Montreal at the end of a provincial highway, the store, which operates under the Beau-soir banner, is the last place where cottage- and camping-bound tourists can buy food, gas and other c-store items before entering Quebec’s vast wilderness.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.20 PM“Don’t think that because we’re in a remote community this is a sleepy, backwoods business,” 25-year-old Vicky told Convenience Store News Canada during a recent phone interview.  “We have a modern, big-city store with friendly, small-town charm.”

Built and opened in the fall of 2017 (next to the now-demolished, decades-old general store that the Beauséjours bought in 2012), the store features the same menu of homemade traditional and fast food items—everything from chicken pie and ragout to pizza and poutine, eaten on premise or takeout—that earned the original store local fame.

It also stocks a growing variety of specialty local food products, including craft beer, wine, dairy and charcuterie, as well as modern ready-to-eat and made-to-order items that span healthy snacks, breakfast sandwiches, daily lunch specials and meals.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.51.16 PMScreen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.51.35 PMAll are made fresh daily in the big kitchen, where most of the store’s 15 full-time employees work under the supervision of Richard, a trained chef who also runs a local catering service. During the pandemic, the c-store used social media to keep customers in the loop about daily specials and encouraged people to preorder, while also offering delivery. 

The store’s foodservice offering has expanded to include a well-stocked salad bar, which Vicky says was added at customers’ bequest: “We’re glad we did because it’s very popular.”

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.07 PMAnother popular feature—one that has been a game changer for the family’s business—is the Esso gas station.  “Adding gas was big because it made us a one-stop destination for both locals and tourists,” says Vicky, a new mom who works throughout the store, often alongside her fiancé, Marc-André Soulière.  “Now people don’t have to run around to different stores to find things. We’ve got it all here.”

While it was her mom who showed her how to cook as a young child, Vicky credits her dad, Éric, a former candy salesman who always dreamed of being a c-store owner, for her entrepreneurial zeal. “My dad’s like a big kid. He loves to be at the store meeting people and being involved in everything. I’m a lot like him.”  

They use the store’s Facebook page to actively promote the business and to post updates, like the closure of the store’s dining area during the COVID-19 crisis and the expansion of home delivery service.  

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.00 PM“We use social media a lot to announce our menus or promotions, like draws,” says Vicky.  She credits those postings—including several of customers posing with a skid of Budweiser cases made to look like a single case costing nearly $4,000 (part of a promotion by Labatt)—for generating both buzz and likes online.  

“We work hard to provide people with the things they want and need,” she adds. “ I think people understand and appreciate that.”

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Quebec government announces incentive for essential retail employees

Unknown-3In an effort to encourage retail employees to continue working, Quebec is offering an incentive for those in essential services, such as convenience, gas and grocery, which amounts to $100 a week for full-time and part-time workers.

The benefit, which will be paid out retroactively from March 15 for a maximum of 16 weeks, applies only to workers receiving gross wages of $550 or less per week and earning an annual amount between $5,000 and $28,600 for 2020.

The $890-million incentive program targets about 600,000 low-income earners and is designed to ensure that they receive a wage that exceeds what the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) would provide.

Workers will receive the taxable incentive, which amounts to about $1,600 over four months, in addition to their wages.

“The health and safety of essential workers is our priority during this period of general mobilization,” says Jean Boulet, minister of labour, employment and social solidarity. “We want them to be able to perform their duties with complete peace of mind and to receive the appropriate remuneration.”

Workers can apply on the Revenue Québec website starting May 19th. Payments will be made via direct deposit or cheque starting May 27th.


Quebec premier orders stores to close Sundays to give workers a break

C-stores and gas stations are exempt



In an attempt to give frontline retail workers a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec Premier Francois Legault on Monday ordered most of the stores still allowed to operate to close on Sundays during the month of April.

The premier gave his newest directive as the province reported its biggest one-day spike in confirmed COVID cases – 590 positive tests – bringing the provincial total to 3,430. Health authorities also confirmed three additional deaths compared with the day prior, for a total of 25.

Legault said he didn’t think closing big grocery stores for one day a week would put a strain on them during the six other days that they are open.

Quebec only permits businesses the province deems “essential” to remain open during the pandemic. Legault ordered all non-essential businesses closed until April 13. Shopping centres won’t open their doors until May 1.

“It will be an opportunity for our workers to get some rest,” Legault said. The only stores that can remain open seven days a week are convenience stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurant take-out counters.

Legault also called on people to leave masks and other protective equipment for those who need them the most.

Apart from rationing protective equipment, the province is looking at ways to wash and reuse them.

Health Minister Danielle McCann called for judicious use of masks as the province tries to procure more amid a world shortage. She has said there have been incidents of thefts at hospitals.

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Dépanneur Peluso carries 1,100 kinds of craft beers


Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 4.59.01 PMTony Peluso, owner of two specialized convenience stores in downtown Montreal (with a third store in the works) believes the key to his success is keeping up with the times.

“If you don’t follow and adapt to changes in your customers’ tastes and expectations you’re falling behind—simple as that,” he says from the office above Dépanneur Peluso, his original store in Montreal’s trendy Le Plateau district.  

“Same thing with retail practices.  When you walk into a Walmart you really get an idea on how to operate.”

It’s a lesson Peluso learned the hard way in the early years of a c-store career that spans four decades.

Born and raised in Montreal’s north end, where his parents settled after immigrating to Canada from Italy, Peluso grew up wanting to be a writer.

Instead, in 1979, with financial backing from their father, he and younger brother, Mario, opened a bakery in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Three years later, the brothers closed the business and opened a convenience store in one of the two adjoining buildings their father owned on nearby Rachel Street.

“It was my idea,” recalls Peluso.  “In those days dépanneurs were going into baking bread, which helped to kill our bakery business.  So we opened our own c-store and set up a bakery and deli section in it.”

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 4.58.48 PMAffiliated from the get-go with Quebec’s Boni-Soir banner, which supplied groceries, beer and other c-store products, the 2,400-sq.-ft. store struggled to survive in an area replete with grocery stores, specialty food stores, cafés, coffee shops and rival dépanneurs.

Peluso’s brother exited after a year, leaving him and a lone employee to operate the store every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“The business was not doing well and I was advised to go bankrupt,” says Peluso.  “But, I said no, I was determined to make it work.”

In addition to negotiating deferred payments from suppliers of up to 90 days, Peluso got deals from the two brewery behemoths of the day—Labatt and Molson—on 12- and 24-bottle cases of beer.

“That really helped because this is a residential area with lots of young renters,” says Peluso.  “And I’m one of the only stores in Le Plateau with a parking lot. That’s a big advantage.”

As sales picked up, Pelusso started hiring more staff.  He also found time to get married and have a daughter, Julia, now 17.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 4.59.44 PMBusiness really started booming when Peluso followed the advice of an employee, who was convinced craft beer was poised to be the next big thing.  

“I started contacting all the microbrewers in Quebec and adding their products,” said Peluso.

He also spent months visiting government-run liquor stores to see how they merchandised wine.  “I did the same thing here with beer,” says Peluso. “That really opened my eyes on how to run a business (and) helped get me out of my slump.”

Craft beer sales proved so popular that Peluso expanded into the adjoining building—adding another 2,400 sq. ft.—and made it into a beer store.

Today the store carries 1,100 kinds of craft beers from 100-plus Quebec microbreweries (including non-alcoholic brands, which Peluso says are becoming increasingly popular), plus full lines of domestic beer and some imported ones.  

“I’m very proud of that,” says Peluso, who plugs his vast craft beer selection with regular updates on social media.  “It’s our trademark.”

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 4.59.22 PMPeluso is equally enthused by the success of a second store he opened on Beaubien Street in Montreal’s Little Italy district in 2016.

The aptly named Péluso Beaubien is as much a small specialty grocery store as it is a c-store, selling fine meats, cheeses and charcuterie, in addition to Quebec-made beers, wine and cider.

The store also has a kitchen, a sit-down counter and a chef, who creates a weekly menu that features hot and cold food items. 

“I knew the area was going to be important for me because the Italians there were getting older and were moving out and millennials were moving in,” says Peluso, whose stores employ 36 people and are managed by Pierre-Luc Gagnon.

Peluso is now planning to open a 6,000-sq.-ft. store in Le Plateau, where he can add Quebec ciders and wines, which he says are becoming increasingly popular.

“I don’t have the space at the old store to add them,” says 59-year-old Peluso, adding the new store will be his last project. “I’m going to own it but not operate it. I’ll leave that to others.”

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INS Market ramps up expansion in Quebec

INS MarketScreen Shot 2020-02-11 at 11.51.54 AM is expanding its convenience concept in Quebec.

Founded in 1994 as International News, the Canadian company has evolved into a convenience retailer, offering tobacco, newspapers, magazines, lottery, beverages, better-for-you snacks and confectionery.

In addition, INS offers books, transit tickets, souvenirs, health and beauty products, greeting cards, telephone cards, postal supplies, office supplies, flowers, mobile devices and accessories. Some stores also features a Western Union, ATM, postal outlet and dry cleaning depot.

With 200 stores in Canada and the United States, the company dubs itself as “the most modern instant gratification store in the market.”

As the company expands, its mantra is simple: “We go where the customers go.” This involves “aggressive expansion” across Quebec. INS stores (kiosks and inline spaces) can be found in high-traffic areas, such as busy urban streets, office buildings, public transit venues and shopping centres, as well as hospitals, colleges and universities.