Régie du bâtiment du Québec

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Bars and restaurants

The RBQ reminds owners of bars, brasseries, taverns, cafés and restaurants that they are chiefly responsible for public safety in their establishment. To that end, they must make sure that the principal safety measures are put into place and maintained at all times. Whereas designers and contractors must prepare the physical layout according to standards, the responsibility for upkeep of the facilities and furnishing the equipment needed is incumbent on owners to ensure people's safety in their establishment. An analysis of your building taking into consideration its particularities must be carried out by a fire safety specialist, who will take applicable standards into account.

Major safety requirements 

In order to assume your responsibilities, you must know the main safety rules to be obeyed.

Means of evacuation

A means of evacuation is the path a person must be able to take to get from anywhere in a building to a safe location, usually outside. Corridors, fire escapes and other means of evacuation may, at first glance, seem to be underused spaces. Staff must be kept aware of the fact that the evacuation path should never be blocked with supplies, furniture or any obstacle that could hinder people when using the exit in the event of fire or similar emergency.

Personnel awareness

Staff must be kept aware of the fact that the evacuation path should never be blocked with supplies, furniture or any obstacle that could impede people from using the exit in the event of fire or similar emergency.

All too often, firefighters and fire safety inspectors discover on their visits to establishments that doors leading to exits are locked. Those doors must allow occupants in the event of an emergency to leave the building, without having a key or knowing how to operate the release mechanism. Wanting to limit access to a business is, of course, a legitimate concern. There are door mechanisms that provide protection from unwanted intrusion and still allow evacuation in case of emergency. In winter, snow or ice must not be allowed to block emergency exits.

Occupant capacity

The number and width of exits provided for a floor space must be set in terms of the expected number of occupants. The number of people who can occupy a floor space is calculated according to the building's use and layout. Those conditions may vary in the course of its use, and operators of a business may be tempted to allow too many customers inside. The number of occupants allowed in an establishment must never exceed the maximum number for whom means of evacuation are provided.

Signage and lighting of evacuation paths

The ambient lighting in bars and restaurants is sometimes quite dim. Evacuation paths must be easily seen, which means assuring a certain degree of lighting is maintained. Exits must be clearly marked with permanently lighted signs. The direction to take to an exit must be indicated where needed. In situations involving power outages, emergency lighting must ensure evacuation paths can be seen. Periodic testing of this equipment according to the manufacturer's instructions is important.

Fire alarm and detection systems

Fire detection and alarm systems play a critical role in alerting occupants so they can evacuate. The obligation of installing such systems depends on several factors: building size, number of storeys, its use, the presence of sprinklers and the number of occupants of the entire building. Depending on building particularities and uses, the system may need to include heat sensors, smoke detectors, visual and sound alarms, manual activation controls, indicator panels, a link to the fire department, electrical supervision, etc. The effectiveness of those systems rests on regular testing and maintenance by the building’s owner or operator.

Your fire safety planning

To facilitate operations in an emergency situation, the owner must develop a safety plan adapted to the establishment that complies with municipal requirements. The plan should be devised in conjunction with a fire safety specialist, who will be able to provide the necessary training and documentation, including sketches of the location and operation of the fire protection facilities in the building.

Ensure the safety of occupants

The safety plan must provide for the designation and training of the personnel responsible for inspection of the facilities and equipment put into place.

Fire is not the only emergency. Other events such as a power outage, a bomb threat or an earthquake may cause panic. Those incidents also demand a safety plan. Since uncontrolled crowding is the main cause of accidents during an emergency evacuation, the training of personnel is key in adequate preparation to handle the situation. The safety plan must provide for the designation and training of the personnel responsible for inspection of the facilities and equipment put into place to ensure the safety of occupants. A safety plan also sets forth the procedures to follow in the event of a fire, covering these steps in particular:
  • sound the alarm;
  • call the fire department;
  • direct the evacuation of occupants;
  • contain and control the fire (if possible).

Finish and decoration

Particular attention must be paid to interior finishing materials, especially on walls and ceilings, and to decorations (streamers, flags, posters, etc.) on them. Those materials are the biggest contributors to a fire's intensity and spread. They can also give off toxic fumes, which is the case with plastics and certain insulating materials which must be properly covered. Generally, decorations should not be allowed to form an obstacle to the smooth operation of a building's safety systems and rapid evacuation in the event of an emergency. Avoid placing them near an exit, a corridor or heating appliance.

Festive preparations

On festive occasions (Halloween, Christmas, etc.), the use of streamers made of flammable material, crêpe paper for example, is prohibited unless they are sufficiently flame-resistant. Use decorations bearing a seal of approval recognized by the RBQ (CSA, ULC, etc.). Use of coniferous trees (fir, pine, spruce, cedar, etc.) or their branches for Christmas decorations in a public building is prohibited. Never use electric bulbs on an artificial tree made of metal. Do not leave a lighted tree without supervision and take care not to overload the power circuits.

Fire protection systems

Fire protection systems (fire alarms, standpipe and hose system, sprinkler system, portable extinguishers, etc.) must be kept in good operating condition and upgraded in conjunction with alterations made to a building.


Before a show using pyrotechnic effects, a building owner planning to host the event should always check with the municipality's fire department to find out if the use of pyrotechnic material is allowed and under what conditions.

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