The owner of Quebec City restaurant Bab Sang has only been in town for a few months, but he may soon pack his bags and leave.
“I’m seriously now planning to move my business to Montreal or Ottawa,” he told Noovo Info on Thursday, speaking at his restaurant on Maguire Avenue.
The Korean eatery was the subject of fierce backlash earlier this week after an article in Le Soleil exposed its lack of French-language service.
According to the report, the restaurant’s servers don’t speak French, and the names of dishes on the menu are in English.
The owner of Bab Sang said he’s received threatening phone calls since the article was published. For this reason, he asked that his name be kept private.
“Most Quebecois in Quebec City, they’re really kind and gentle and nice people, but some people really don’t like me,” he said.
He decided to close the restaurant’s dining room for fear of harassment.
“I need to protect my employees now.”
Quebec’s language charter dictates that all consumers, including restaurant patrons, have a right to be informed and served in French.
The restaurateur plans to open the doors again once French-speaking staff is hired — but the process hasn’t been easy, as the labour shortage has made finding workers a challenge.
Bruno Salvail, director of the business development organization SDC Maguire, told Noovo Info he feels sympathy for the owner and his situation.
“He told me all he’s done to hire French employees, but that it’s not working,” said Salvail, noting that the staff at Bab Sang are all family members.
Bab Sang restaurant in Quebec City. (Noovo Info)
‘I LOVE QUEBEC CITY’
Bab Sang’s owner is not a native English speaker either — he picked it up when he lived in Australia, before moving to New Brunswick for a few years.
Now that he’s on Quebec soil, he planned to do the same thing, but with la langue officielle.
“I really love Quebec City, so I decided to come here, even though I cannot speak French — but really, I can learn the language,” he said.
He expressed a desire to integrate into the Quebec City community.
“We did not come here to break their culture,” he added. “We like Quebec City, we want to join the Quebecois, together.”
But now, because of the backlash, he may not stick around long enough to learn French — a reality that has Salvail feeling discouraged.
“Remember that this person has been in Quebec for four months, he’s of Korean origin, who moved to New Brunswick, mainly in Fredericton, for five years. And now we’re asking him to speak fluent French?” he said.
“Really, I’m asking myself serious questions about where we’ve ended up here […] to be so intolerant.”
“I think we have to give them time to find staff and learn the language.”
With files from Noovo Info’s Raquel Fletcher and Emeric Montminy.
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