Most Montrealers are unaware of this, but the face of their city at night is changing.

Last May, the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) hosted a party that started at 10 p.m. on Saturday and ended at 3 a.m.… the following Monday. The bar remained open throughout this period.

We reassure the worried: the city has not sunk into anarchy, and the Earth has continued its tireless rotation around the Sun.

This year, no less than 10 similar events have already taken place. That’s not counting the Nuit Blanche, during which 51 bars and nightclubs ignored (legally!) the famous last call to prolong the fun until sunrise.

These initiatives are largely due to the efforts of Mathieu Grondin.

The CEO of Montreal 24/24 is not the kind of guy you meet in a light-filled cafe at 11:30 a.m. Or, at any rate, it would have seemed to me to betray a certain concept.

So I catch the night owl on a Friday night at the SAT, where he has just performed on the decks as a DJ. Given the time, we swap espressos for cans of beer.

At 43, Mathieu says he has always been “a night owl and a late riser.” When he was a child, his father, former radio host Denis Grondin, sometimes took him to the studio at night.

“What fascinated me were the people calling. They were often truckers and my father could take the time to chat with them. Even today, for me, the night is a horizontal space,” he says.

Horizontal ?

As a teenager, Mathieu Grondin seeks to display his marginality. But with a radio host father and a mother who plays drums in a band, stepping out of line is less obvious.

It was when he showed up at his first rave, in third grade, that he had a revelation.

“When I stepped foot in there and heard that… It was dance, but dance punk. And I immediately thought: wow. My parents will never understand,” he says.

At 17, with friends, he organized his first night of electronic music in a disused industrial laundry in the Rosemont district. The event attracts 1200 people. “Security was the Cégep du Vieux Montreal football team!” “, he recalls.

He will never stop, organizing both legal and illegal events (he found himself in court three times, managing to get away with it each time).

In the middle, there is obviously grumbling against the constraints of hours. Especially since Montreal night owls travel and see that in Europe, the night never ends.

“The first time I went to Berlin, I was like, wow. What is happening here ? It does not stop, it does not close and everyone is cool. There are no battles, there are no drunk people,” he says.

Mathieu Grondin is an activist at heart. But he instinctively understands that it is not through protests and protests that he will succeed in prolonging Montreal nights.

In 2017, with Alexis Simoneau and G.-Vincent Melo, he founded Montréal 24/24 – a non-profit organization aimed at promoting the rights of night owls.

Mathieu Grondin shows up at city council meetings and asks questions. He ends up establishing a dialogue with the politicians.

His message: Keeping bars open longer doesn’t exacerbate the problems, it alleviates them.

His message: let people stay indoors until they burn out. “When you walk out of a nightclub at 6 a.m., you just have one thing on your mind: go to bed,” he points out. In addition, partygoers can take advantage of the reopening of the metro.

For the moment, the dozen pilot projects carried out in Montreal seem to prove him right, not having caused any notable problems. It must be said that Montreal 24/24 keeps watch with “mitigation squads”.

“Montréal 24/24’s big mandate is still to educate the public and decision-makers about the reality of the night,” continues Mathieu Grondin. On the fact that it is about culture, that it contributes to the economic development of the city and its potential for tourist attractiveness. »

The message gets across so well that he now considers Mayor Valérie Plante a “great ally.”

Is he worried that an event will escalate and wipe out the gains? “Something is going to happen eventually,” he predicts. But when someone gets shot in a pizzeria in the Latin Quarter at noon, do we close all the pizzerias at noon? »

His next fight: that Montreal adopt a governance structure dedicated to the night and integrated into the municipal apparatus. He cites as examples the New York City Office of Nightlife, the night councils of several French cities and even the “night mayors” found in some Dutch cities.

When we met, Mathieu Grondin was about to speak about nightlife at conferences in Texas, New York and Australia.

Ironically, this commitment encroaches… on his own nightlife.

“Since I founded Montreal 24/24 to talk about the night, I get up at 7 a.m. to be in a meeting with city officials at 8 a.m.,” he laughs.

On Friday evening, exhausted, he admits going to bed at 8 p.m. But it’s better to get up at 1 a.m. and celebrate until 6 a.m.

Coffee and Me: I don’t really like tart stuff made by mustachioed third-wave Aussie baristas. I like my Italian coffee: a ristretto at the end of lunch or dinner. But no cappuccino after 11 a.m. or I’ll judge you.

My favorite night city: Before the war, it was Kyiv! A dynamic, emerging scene where going out at night is a political gesture and not just a hedonistic outlet. Berlin remains the Mecca of electronic music and experimental nightclubs. Amsterdam is also an excellent practical example of nocturnal governance.

My ideal night: A barbecue with friends, then a scooter ride to an abandoned warehouse from which the tempo of a repetitive bass resonates. Inside, a colorful crowd from the counterculture, people transformed into characters who reinvent their identities. In the morning, a party that continues under the sun. Laughter, exhausted bodies, eyes that shine from having lived a night out of this world.

People, dead or alive, I would like to spend a night with: I would have liked to spend a night at the Loft with DJ David Mancuso in the late 1970s or with Dimitri Hegemann at Club Trésor in the 1990s.

A trip I dream of: Tbilisi in Georgia for Club Bassiani or the Dekmantel Selectors festival in Croatia. Or a night in a tent on a Mongolian steppe watching the stars.