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Paris court pulls plug on plans for new gay nightclub


Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2013-01-08

A Paris court has decided to overturn two building permits that would have allowed the construction of a two-floor nightclub in the heart of Paris’s “gay district", in a decision that has underlined tensions between residents and bar-owners.

A Paris court has revoked two building permits to construct a gay nightclub in the city’s Marais neighbourhood, a hub for LGBT culture in the French capital. The decision, made public on Monday, highlighted ongoing tensions between city dwellers and bar owners.

Neighbourhood residents who filed the motion challenging the building permits last year appeared cautiously optimistic after the ruling: the Paris Administrative Court based its decision not on the residents’ complaint that noise from the proposed disco would be a nuisance, but on a technicality instead.

Judges said the nightclub owners did not fully comply with procedure when applying for the building permits.

“Hopefully, with this decision and the mobilization against the nightclub, the mayor’s office and the police prefecture will realize that their job is to serve the people and not the commercial interests of a few,” Yvon Le Gall, the spokesman for the residents, said in a statement after the ruling.

However, Jean-Bernard Meneboo, one of the businessmen behind the project, said he and his partners have been unfairly singled out, and suffered pressure from local police authorities before the court’s decision.

“It’s not a coincidence that before the ruling another restaurant we own lost its license to operate at night. We have been the victim of constant threats, and this ruling has come down in a particularly tense atmosphere,” he told FRANCE 24.

The site of the proposed nightclub is a former art gallery in the heart of the historic Marais neighbourhood near Paris's city hall.

Meneboo and business partner Frédérick Hervé, who also run two other gay-friendly establishments in the Marais, were handed the building permits by the city in September 2011, but were forced to freeze their plans two months later, after the residents filed a legal complaint.

The court also awarded 6,000 euros in damages to the residents. Meneboo said his business partners were still considering whether to appeal the court’s decision.

Dying nightlife in Paris

The row over the proposed nightclub has once again called attention to tensions between Parisians tired of the capital’s nightlife, and bar and restaurant owners who are increasingly reluctant to keep businesses open because of the financial challenges they face.

Permits to run bars and restaurants in the evening must be vetted every three to twelve months by the local police prefecture. Business owners complain of weak guarantees that they will continue to operate in the short-term and say they face stiff fines for noise.

In November 2010 the mayor’s office organised a three-day conference to discuss Parisian nightlife after numerous artists and business people called attention to what they said was a moribund capital that paled in comparison to the after-hours energy of Berlin, Barcelona and other European destinations.

Le Gall, the spokesman for the Marais residents, said his group would continue to put pressure on authorities over noisy bars and fight against new projects.

Meneboo said residents had every right to demand quiet, but that fellow bar and club owners saw little reason to invest in top sound-insulation for their establishments when they had no long-term visibility on operating permits.

“It’s not worth it when you know the guillotine could fall at any moment,” he said.

Date created : 2013-01-08