Let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go: poutine was invented in Québec and nowhere else!
Now, with that out of the way, we can debate endlessly on the proper balance of ingredients in this dish and the establishments where best to experience this gastronomic wonder. There’s even an underlying debate on whether all the eccentric and bizarre variations proposed by chefs during Poutine Week are actually poutine because they stray so far from the tried and true fries-cheese-gravy trinity…
There is, however, one other ingredient the co-owners of Resto La Banquise located right at the heart of Montréal’s famous Plateau neighbourhood, will never omit: music! La Banquise is nothing short of a proverbial institution in Montréal, serving poutine since 1968, and being Licensed to Play by SOCAN made complete sense, according to Annie Barsalou, co-owner and daughter of the establishment’s founder, Pierre Barsalou.
“Music has a clear and direct impact on business, on the clients, and on the atmosphere of the place.” – Annie Barsalou
“We could look at our ledger and think that this licence is one more item in our expenses column,” says Annie. “But take a step back and it quickly becomes obvious that we need the music from all those songwriters, and it’s important to us that they get fairly compensated for their work. It’s perfectly in line with our values as restaurateurs.”
For Marc Latendresse, her life partner and co-owner, the Licensed to Play sticker proudly displayed at La Banquise is more than just proof that their restaurant is among the more than 30,000 establishments in Canada that are legally licensed by SOCAN to play music in their business.
“We’ve had comments from customers who said they appreciated our respect for artists and songwriters,” he says. “It’s particularly important in our neighbourhood, Plateau Mont-Royal, which is a major cultural hub in this province.”
And indeed, staffers of the restaurant can tell you that many a well-known or up-and-coming musician visit their eatery, such as We Are Wolves or Random Recipe, to name but a few…
“Music has a clear and direct impact on business, on the clients, and on the atmosphere of the place,” says Barsalou. “We adapt our playlist and the volume we play it at according the the time of day. Our employees are the ones feeding the choice of music and we give them full latitude. We often get questions from customers curious to know what they’re hearing, and that creates a bond between the staff and our clients. We even have one regular customer who comes in and shares his latest musical discoveries with us!”
“Our musical choices vary according to the time of day – something crucial since we operate 24/7 – and they help define our identity and unique atmosphere,” adds Latendresse. “To us, music is an essential part of a positive customer experience and therefore an integral part of our restaurant’s success.”
Poutine has frequently been part of Québec’s musical culture – think Hommage en grain by Mes Aïeux, Mononc’ Serge’s Les Patates or Québec-France duo Omnikrom and TTC’s Danse la poutine – so it seems only fitting that the Mecca of such a staple of comfort food would use music to offer its patrons a complete experience, while fairly compensating the creators thanks to SOCAN’s Licensed to Play program