On Living in a Gentrifying Neighbourhood, Part 3
March 3, 2012 § 10 Comments
There is an SAQ outlet at the corner of Centre and Charlevoix here in Pointe-Saint-Charles. For those of you non-Quebecers reading this, SAQ is the Société des Alcools du Québec, the state monopoly, the liquor store. The SAQ here in the Pointe is a tiny one, a little boutique, but very busy and the staff there are friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable. But the SAQ is closing it down as of 30 March this year because, it alleges, the outlet is unprofitable. If that outlet is unprofitable, I am the King of Siam. What is at work here is the SAQ forgetting its mandate as a state monopoly, which is not just to make money hand-over-fist, but to provide a service.
So the people of the Pointe, as mobilised as ever, are protesting the closure of our SAQ outlet. There was a march to our MNA’s office on rue Saint-Jacques yesterday to protest. Why are people protesting? That should seem to be obvious, quite frankly. But the SAQ at the corner of Centre and Charlevoix is in many ways an anchor of the commercial outlets along the next few blocks of Centre. Kitty corner from the SAQ is Restaurant Machiavelli, a relatively upscale eatery. Next door over is Cari Mela, one of the handful of Indian restaurants in the Pointe, and probably the best. Cari Mela, Machiavelli, and the other Indian restaurants along Centre are all bring your own wine. This makes sense, given the SAQ down the block.
Centre has seen some rough times, but in the past few years there has been a slow regeneration and revival. There have been these new Indian restaurants opening. There is a mosque acros the street and up a block. A series of Bengal dépanneurs have popped up. And a series of coffee shops/casse croutes have opened up or have maintained. More recently, a trendy boutique restaurant, Ma Tante Quiche has opened its doors next to a laundromat, and there are rumours a boulangerie is opening up where the old video store was.
Losing an anchor like the SAQ will have serious ramifications for Centre as a commercial zone.
The CBC had a short story on its website yesterday about the protest, which will no doubt come to naught. The story itself is innocuous, but the comments on it are quite simply, jaw-droppingly stupid. Michael59 says the protest was a stupid joke because the next store is a few blocks away. mikeysm notes that the Pointe is a poor neighbourhood. HughNugent reports that most of his family grew up here and their response would be for us to get up off our fat arses and walk to the Atwater Market, where there’s a big SAQ outlet.
These comments reflect the general idea of the Pointe of a neighbourhood of poor folk, collecting welfare, and spending their banlieue money on lottery tickets. But there is obviously more than that. The Pointe is a diverse neighbourhood these days, and the clientele of the SAQ reflects this. There are people of all ethnicities and socio-economic classes at the outlet buying their alcohol, primarily wine, as that’s what dominates the shelves. Atwater Market is a good 15 minute walk from the corner of Centre and Charlevoix. It’s a lot farther away if you live further into the Pointe.
But beyond that, the general gist of these comments is that the people of the Pointe are fat and lazy and because they are such, they shouldn’t be wasting their money on alcohol to start with. I am very curious what the comments would be in response to a story about the closing of a busy SAQ outlet on, say, the Plateau, or the Mile End, or Outremont, or NDG or Westmount. I’d bet they would be asinine comments such as these.