“I hate to say this, but it doesn’t take a detective when you see the scene. That’s the shocking part: that you don’t understand why,” Matthieu Arteau, co-owner of Sel Gras, the Mediterranean restaurant ravaged by the blaze, told CBC’s Daybreak Montreal.
“You second guess yourself and there is that stigma for certain restaurants.”
The owners of Sel Gras say they are uncertain why their restaurant would be targeted, if the cause of the fire is determined to be arson.
The restaurant on St-Laurent Boulevard near Fairmount Avenue was owned by four young people in their twenties and thirties, and opened just a week before the fire.
"We opened last Tuesday. A Mediterranean restaurant which we had been working on for quite some time now. And that's it — a week later we're done," said Sel Gras co-owner David Martin.
Police say the investigation is ongoing and although they have not yet established the cause of the fire, they have released a photo of a person of interest.
The windows were shattered as firefighters fought to control the blaze and Arteau says that although the building is structurally sound, there was substantial damage to the furniture and appliances.
“Everything inside is gone. Some of the appliances can be kept, but in general, mostly it’s a loss,” said Arteau.
The owners of Sel Gras say that they hope to rebuild the restaurant, but that it could take several months.
Other Mile End restaurant owners say they are concerned by the incident, making them consider how they might improve their security and why someone might target businesses in the area.
“The motivation is confusing to us,” said David Schmidt, co-owner of neighbouring restaurants Café Sardine and Maïs.
“If it’s competition related, it’s not an easy business for anyone... I wasn’t thinking like that before it happened, but it shines a light.”