Joel Ceausu – The Suburban LJI Reporter
As pub season grips winter-weary Montrealers, like any small business, Joe Pilotte and the crew at Ye Olde Orchard Pub on Monkland would much rather focus on good food and good times.
They will, but somewhere in that mix, the bureaucracy weighing heavily on the Quebec small business ecosystem seems otherwise inclined. A complaint to the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) prompted a letter in November to the local pub, demanding a signage change. The province’s rules demand a French description along with the English name i.e., brasserie, taverne, etc., but in two years new rules will also demand that said French add-on be more prominent and may go further.
It’s a headache, no doubt and seems out of place for the vibe of Monkland: known throughout Montreal for Anglo chill, it’s a heavily multicultural neighbourhood not known for language strife or the bitterness characterizing much of the debate. But after surviving a pandemic and layers of bureaucratic hassles like myriad Montreal businesses, it’s just another headache.
The pub displays two signs, one larger scroll across the entrance, and a smaller one with additional graphics, but both contain the words Ye Olde Orchard.
Co-owner Pilotte takes pains to repeat to anybody who asks that this is not about French-English scraps, it’s about clarity. His dealings with the OQLF are always extremely amicable. “You know many people see them as a big scary monster in the English community, and I can understand why, but they were very kind, and the person in charge of my file is nothing but professional. I know a lot of people may feel that it’s ‘us against them’ but that’s not how it is. And it’s not us. We’re a pub. We are about welcoming all.”
Pilotte says “if it was just a descriptor it would already be done,” adding he was already working on new ideas to comply, while still maintaining the identity of the three-decades-old neighbourhood institution. His problem rather, is the vagueness of the law. “They gave us a heads-up that in 2025 the rules will change, and even then my sign might not work if it’s got English words. You see it isn’t clear. So we’re a little bit in limbo.”
For now, he says he’s trying to negotiate in good faith “and we expect the same from them. We don’t want to spend thousands of dollars or get fined, or upset anyone, because remember at the end of the day it’s the government we’re dealing with. We’re just trying to make it work and I’m sure we’ll find something that will make them happy.”
The eight-location pub chain is a 100% Quebec company, says Pilotte. “We never tried to go outside Quebec. We’re all about bringing Celtic hospitality to all the neighbourhoods in Quebec, which is home. As long as I can get straight answers from the people in charge.”
And then, he and his team can focus on what’s truly important in this hood: serving up a Guinness and a damn good onion soup.