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One of Vancouver’s best restaurants is re-opening for dine-in, but you’ll have to pre-pay for your meal

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In what we’ve started referring to as the “before times,” a reservation at Vancouver’s St. Lawrence restaurant was a hot commodity. The 54-seat Powell Street restaurant offering a fine dining take on the hearty meat-forward fare of Quebec has been a dazzling gem in the crown of Vancouver dining since even before it opened back in 2017.

Quebec native J.C. Poirier had Vancouver all ears when word broke that the former Ask For Luigi and Pourhouse chef was going to put cuisine of his home province on Vancouverites’ plates. Would a city obsessed with cold pressed green juices, Buddha Bowls, and sushi want to tuck into savoury game meat pies in buttery crusts, baked potatoes loaded with cheese curds and floating in gravy, and slices of sugar pie?

The number of Instagram shots of St. Lawrence’s signature Oreille de Crisse (fried and spice-dusted pork rinds) served brimming over a recycled Quebec maple syrup can (guilty!) should easily answer that question. St. Lawrence was an instant stand-out, and tables were booked months in advance.

It should come as no surprise that Poirier isn’t all that interested in being like everyone else when it comes to restaurants in Vancouver.

Given his step-ahead or outside the box approach with St. Lawrence, it should also perhaps not be surprising that the way in which the popular and critically-acclaimed restaurant plans to re-instate dine-in service as the province shifts into “Phase 2” of its COVID-19 economic restart is also unconventional.

Now, to get one of the even fewer dinner reservations at St. Lawrence, you’re going to have to buy your food before you get to the restaurant.

Starting May 28, St. Lawrence will offer a Table d’Haute three-course menu, available by booking – and paying – in advance.

Poirier says he arrived at the decision to have dine-in service at St. Lawrence be by pre-payment only in part because of the certainty it offers him in regards to food costs and staffing for any given night.

Controlling food costs are key at any time, but are even more so now, as the local food systems and the industry they support attempt to recover after crippling set-backs when COVID-19 forced local and provincial governments to close down restaurants to dine-in service.

Though Poirier says he is conscious at all times of minimizing food waste, COVID-19 has affected farmers and other suppliers to the extent that the system is “basically broken,” right now.

In those “before time,” as well, St. Lawrence could serve about 100 meals – called covers in restaurant speak – at night, with about two “turns” of each of the restaurant’s seats. Now he is having to pare down the capacity to 24 chairs, and has even opted to remove the bar seats – once the possible only spot for walk-ins – rather than affix a Plexiglass shield between the open kitchen and those seats.

A no-show before COVID-19 would chip away at the already razor-thin profit margins of a restaurant, but a no-show no would be exponentially more damaging to the bottom line.

“No shows will hurt a lot for 50 per cent capacity,” attests Poirier.

Sure, Vancouver might have the nickname “no fun” city, but we have also earned the rep in the hospitality business as being a “no show” city.

When St. Lawrence first opened, Poirier says they had about 30 per cent of reservations cancel last minute or simply not show up. After moving to Resy, an online reservation platform that gave St. Lawrence the ability to charge a cancellation fee, Poirier says their no show rate went down to closer to just five per cent.

After closing down in mid-March following B.C. public health and City of Vancouver orders, Poirier took some time to re-group before St. Lawrence went back online to offer take-home meals. It was then that Poirier moved St. Lawrence to Tock, the online booking platform that first appeared on the scene in Vancouver in early 2018 and that is structured to take advance payment for or charge penalties for missed reservations.

Those take-home meal offerings will be part of St. Lawrence’s immediate future, too. Poirier talks through the math, explaining that if he is able to do two “turns” of his dine-in tables and have about 50 meals ordered for take-out, their revenue would “be close to what we did before.”

Poirier does add, however, that he is also working on more revenue streams tied to the restaurant, like packaged products and offering delivery of those items through increasingly popular local services like Legends Haul.

Close is going to be probably the best we can expect our favourite restaurants to achieve right now, given the circumstances.

“I don’t think any restaurant will make money,” says Poirier of the industry’s immediate economic outlook. Instead, he surmises it will be a matter of survival and trying to “lose as little as possible.”

The chef and restaurateur acknowledges that St. Lawrence is not known for being a place you can just walk-in to, so the customer base may already be comfortable with pre-paying for their meals. “It’s a risky move, of course, but I think [diners] will understand,” he says.

Poirier says customers have a lot to consider when it comes to the kind of businesses we want to have in our city in our near future. “Think about which restaurants you want to see on the other side,” of the COVID-19 pandemic, Poirier urges. He hopes consumers will throw support to those establishments that practice high standards, follow a strong work ethic, and serve top-quality food. But there’s also what else a restaurant brings to the table, that kind of “fill your soul” cultural experience.

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5 DIY Home Improvements for the COVID-19 Lockdown

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The global coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people around the world, to spend more time in their homes this year than they have spent in a long time. As people sit around day after day within the confines of their home, it becomes easier to notice all the areas of the house that need some work. Fortunately, everyone can now afford the extra free time to do the home renovation project they’ve been putting off for years.

Due to the on-going global health crisis, you may not be able to hire any help for your home improvement project; this means that whatever new project you plan to do around the house, whether it’s repainting the home, or installing floor heating systems, you would have to do it yourself.

Here are some do-it-yourself that you may like to try out.

Upgrade to Smart Home Appliances

It’s 2020, what better year to embrace the future by installing a range of high-tech devices that make life extra easy. For instance, with a smart thermostat, your home’s heating and cooling system can go off on their own when not needed, keeping your electricity bills lower. Other appliances that you can make smart include your lighting, home security, music and more.

Clean out your Garage

Homeserve suggests a garage cleanout as a great home improvement project for this season because cleaning out your garage provides some fresh air, the heavy lifting provides some workout and you feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s done.  What’s more, the day would be far spent by the time you’re done with this project. Cleaning out your garage would require you to sweep out any dirt or debris, and get rid of other useless items that may have been stored there for a long time.

Start a Repainting Project

There’s always room for a fresh coat of paint to make everywhere look more alive, so grab a paintbrush and add some extra character to your home. The good news is that you don’t even have to go out for the paint, you can have it shipped directly to your door. Southlandremodeling suggests that if you had 2019 palette or older in your home, now is the time to embrace the latest colour hues of 2020, that show off a more contemporary style and make your home look more sophisticated.

 Build a Patio

Now is the time where every family would enjoy having a paver patio or an outdoor deck, somewhere to sit and get some fresh air when you’re tired of being cooped up inside all day. First you have to ensure that your home has enough space for a patio and that you have enough skills to handle a hammer and other tools for simple construction.

Next you order your needed materials online and get started. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to create an outdoor space that your family can enjoy while being stuck at home.

Install some floor heating systems

Installation of floor heating systems is one of the best home improvement projects that one can get. Many people prefer to hire professionals to do these kinds of installation but if you are up for it, it’s not impossible to do this on a DIY project and get a valuable addition to your home for about half the cost.

Finally

There is no reason to continue holding out on your dream DIY home renovation projects, especially now that you have all the time in the world due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Now is the perfect time to transform your home all by yourself!

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13 Montreal Apartments For Rent That Have Breathtaking Outdoor Spaces

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With Quebec’s moving day just around the corner, many people are starting to look for a new property to rent. And, now that Montreal real estate activity is back in action, you can start trying to find the perfect space again. And, if you ask me, an apartment that comes with outdoor space is a must when living in the city.

From balconies to shared rooftop spaces, we’re all looking for a place where we can be outdoors. 

Now, more than ever, fresh air is something that we’re all craving. And, with summer coming faster than we think, finding a place with access to the outside is on so many of our checklists. 

Luckily for you, we at MTL Blog have made your job very easy and have gone through listings throughout the city to showcase some of the best rentals, all of which have outdoor spaces. 

Some of these properties offer private balconies while others have surreal rooftops you get access to. Regardless of which one you fall in love with, you’ll be sure to have a summer to remember living in any apartment on this list. 

Get ready for moving day because after looking at these properties, you’re going to be ready to pack your belongings.

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Montreal real-estate market hit hard by pandemic

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Like many industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the red-hot Montreal real-estate market has suddenly chilled.

After 61 consecutive months of increases, the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area reported a 68-per-cent decrease in residential sales transactions in April 2020 compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers.

The most recent residential real-estate market statistics for the Montreal area showed 1,890 residential sales transactions were concluded last month. Those figures are based on the real-estate brokers’ Centris provincial database.

Montreal has been hit harder than other Canadian cities by the pandemic, and the drop in sales was seen in all six main areas of the Montreal CMA.

The drop in sales applied to all three property categories. Single-family home sales fell 68 per cent (1,048 transactions): plex sales dropped 67 per cent (161 transactions); and condominium sales tumbled 69 per cent (675 transactions).

Despite the drop in sales, real-estate prices rose in the CMA. The median price of single-family homes increased by nine per cent to reach $360,000, while the median price of condominiums climbed 12 per cent to $289,900.

Compared with April 2019, the median price of plexes (two to five dwellings) increased 10 per cent to $595,000.

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