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Quebec: Is my retail business an “essential service”?

March 24, 2020

At midnight tonight, March 24, 2020, all “non-essential” workplaces will have to close in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Companies that can operate via telework are encouraged to do so in order to maintain all economic activities.  

All essential and non-essential retail businesses in Quebec can continue to sell to customers online, by phone and / or by mail or by delivery. Under certain conditions, online purchases with a secure collection point will be authorized.  

The Retail Council of Canada has done significant advocacy work to clarify what is considered an “essential retail business”, given the diverse needs of Quebecers. – See Quebec Government’s list

With regards to the “essential” businesses, it is your responsibility to take all means to ensure the safety of your customers and employees. Social distancing should be respected in the queues, in store and outside within the confines of your property. In addition, we strongly invite you to determine all potential areas that could be considered a risk such as rest rooms, kitchens and cafeterias of your companies and to apply the necessary security measures. Cafeterias serving food will have to close their dining room and offer only take-out food. The same logic applies to rest rooms and kitchens of your stores. Your administrative offices are assimilated to essential services, but all the functions which can be operated by telework will have to be done that way; the government counts on your collaboration.  

Definitions of “essential service” that affect retail businesses:

Businesses that sell:

  • Grocery stores and other food retailers
  • Pharmacies
  • Convenience stores
  • Stores not in a mall (offering grocery, pharmacy or hardware products)
  • Businesses supplying agricultural operations (machinery, fertilizer, etc.)
  • Société des alcools du Québec and Société québécoise du cannabis
  • Furniture and household appliances (online or telephone sales only)
  • Restaurants (drive-through, take-out and delivery only)
  • Cleaners, laundries and laundromats
  • Medical and orthopaedic supply firms
  • Suppliers of pet food and supplies
  • Moving firms
  • Work equipment (safety and protection)

Businesses that provide:

  • Telecommunications (network and equipment)
  • Public transit services and passenger services
  • Ports and airports
  • Supply and distribution of foodstuffs, grocery stores and convenience stores
  • Transportation, storage and distribution of goods
  • Service stations and mechanical repair of cars, tow truck and trucking services and specialized equipment for essential industries and roadside assistance
  • Remunerated passenger transportation and paratransit services
  • Postal, courier and parcel delivery services

Construction sector services

  • Construction firms, for emergency repairs or to ensure safety
  • Electricians, plumbers and other trades (emergency services only)
  • Equipment rental firms

Building maintenance and upkeep services

  • Cleaning, upkeep and pest management
  • Building maintenance (elevators, ventilation, alarm systems, etc.)

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THIS LIST IS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING AND THAT THE GOVERNMENT RESERVES THE RIGHT TO ADD OR WITHDRAW COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES FROM THIS LIST.

If your business is part of the “essential services” list, there’s no problem, otherwise you will have to close at midnight tonight. In case of doubts, do not hesitate to contact us:

Jean-François Belleau
Director, Government Relations
jfbelleau@cccd-rcc.org

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