After witnessing many birthdays, meals for two and business dinners, Le Goût du large, Natashquan’s only restaurant open year-round, will serve its last meals on September 30.
Posted at 6:00 a.m.
Those who live in the mythical village of poet and singer Gilles Vigneault, located on the North Shore, will have to travel 150 km if they want to sit down with family and friends outside their residence. The nearest restaurant is in fact in Havre-Saint-Pierre.
A 71-year-old dishwashing employee, only one cook to prepare the dishes, students who came to lend a hand during the summer, but who have recently left the dining room to return to the school benches, workstations displayed that do not attract any candidates. This is what forced the three owners of Le Goût du large, who say they are “completely overwhelmed” by the combination of their administrative tasks, table service and cooking, to permanently close the restaurant in a month. A decision taken “reluctantly”, assures Marina Landry, one of the three women at the head of the main meeting place for residents of Natashquan, on the phone. There is the café L’Échouerie, but it is only open during the summer season, specifies Mme Landry.
News of the closure was announced in mid-August in The Porter, a local newspaper. The restaurant, still open, had been on sale since the fall of 2019. But since no buyer showed up after all these years, we decided to close. Definitively.
“To no longer have a restaurant at all, I would never have thought that we would come to this,” admits the 58-year-old owner, originally from the place. But now the small team of six people, whose average age is 64, is running out of breath and must resign itself to closing a gathering place that was sorely lacking in arms, but certainly no customers, she says. . Profitability was there.
What will the population of 277 inhabitants do now if they want to meet and have fun in Natashquan? “I couldn’t say,” replies M.me Landry hesitantly. It sure is quiet. People will perhaps gather in the houses over coffee. »
Go back. The trio, consisting of Mme Landry and two of her friends, acquired the restaurant in 2015. It was a family, before them, who had been at the helm since 1998. When they took over Le Goût du large – specializing in fish and seafood – the three women welcomed their customers from morning to evening, seven days a week. “That’s what we wanted,” says Marina Landry. This is the vocation we wanted to give to the restaurant. »
Over the years, the lack of staff began to be felt. They stopped offering breakfasts, resigned themselves to closing on weekends and operating on a reduced schedule. Then, since the beginning of the summer, we no longer serve meals on Mondays.
At the beginning of the adventure, Le Goût du large had up to 14 employees during the high season. “We had lots of plans,” says the owner with a hint of disappointment in her voice. The development of a terrace to allow customers of the restaurant, located on the shores of the Petite Rivière Natashquan, to fully enjoy the landscape and the construction of a dock to accommodate people traveling in kayaks were part of the plans.
On the side of the Municipal Corporation of Natashquan, the general manager, Denis Landry, is sorry for the closure of this restaurant which has about sixty places. “A restaurant that closes in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve will be replaced by several others,” he gives as an example to explain the particular situation of Natashquan, where there is only one establishment of this type.
Devitalization, we are currently experiencing the repercussions, he adds. This is indicative of a more critical situation to come.
Denis Landry, General Manager of the Municipal Corporation of Natashquan
“At the time, we had the church, the credit union and the restaurant. Now, what remains of a gathering place in a community is the restaurant, adds Martin Vézina, vice-president of public and governmental affairs for the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ). In this case, it is an important place that is lost. »
A few weeks before the closure, Marina Landry continues to maintain the hope that buyers will come forward to ensure the survival of the place which serves, in addition to the local population, a growing number of tourists. “It’s hard to invite people to your house if you can’t offer them food. »
“I just wish a team of dynamic young people would come in here and make it work,” she said. I have hope. I tell myself that it is impossible that this company is not taken over. You buy a safe bet. It works well, but it takes energy, a lot of energy. »
So far, is there reason to believe that potential buyers will show up at the door? “At the moment, not much is happening… I admit. »