MONTREAL — A family member from one of the city’s best-known kosher butcher shops has launched an online petition in a bid to make kosher hotdogs, burgers and deli fare available to fans at Montreal Canadiens home games and other events at the Bell Centre.
Montreal native Zachary Nemes, 27, is seeking to gather 21,273 signatures – representing the total number of seats at the centre – in the effort to have products from J&R Kosher get a concession permit.
As of April 10, about 400 had signed the online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/jrkosher/ since its launch one week earlier.
You can also find the petition on Facebook at facebook.com/jandrkosher.
“We are the only NHL city with a sizable Jewish population that does not offer anything kosher,” said Nemes, for the last five years an equities trader living in Manhattan. “Toronto, New York, San José, they all have it except for us.”
So far, however, Montreal Canadiens executives are not biting, so to speak.
First, Nemes was informed that the contract with the current exclusive hotdog concessioner, Lafleur’s – is not up for renewal for another year.
Second, Bell Centre seats tend to be filled to the rafters for Habs games, kosher hotdog stand or no kosher hotdog stand.
In March, just prior to the first Passover seder, Nemes met with Kevin Gilmore, the Canadiens’ chief operating officer, who works under CEO Geoff Molson. Nemes carried with him two platters heaped high with kosher deli fare, including hotdogs, smoked meat, smoked turkey and even knockwurst sausage.
But despite the fact that the food was consumed and enjoyed, there was nary a nibble in regard to a kosher concession.
“The idea of the petition,” Nemes said, “is to show the type of demand there is, to show how important it is to serve an important customer base, to cater to your market.”
Nemes is determined to use every ounce of leverage he can muster in the quest for kosher.
The petition includes an effort to bring onside the high number of Jewish season ticket holders for Canadiens games and corporate sponsors who might be able to wield some influence inside the Habs’ front office.
As well, synagogues have been using the Bell Centre ice for the last two years for a “Kiddush Cup” hockey tournament, and 2012 saw the launch of the first street hockey tournament benefiting the YM-YWHA and Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation.
Nemes said his family’s business, still overseen by grandfather, Robert, and father, Sidney, and operating in the Jewish community for more than 60 years, is ideally positioned to spur fans to line up for its products at the Bell Centre.
“The hope is that the Montreal Canadiens will revisit this issue,” he said.