‘The soul of our city’: Paris restaurants, cafés to reopen for outdoor service only

The restaurant Les Deux Magots on Paris' Left Bank on April 22, 2020.
The restaurant Les Deux Magots on Paris' Left Bank on April 22, 2020. AFP - FRANCK FIFE

An essential part of life for a city renowned for its eating and drinking culture, Paris’s restaurants, cafés and bars will reopen on June 2, but only for seating outside – on the grounds that Covid-19 is believed to spread more easily inside.


French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced on Thursday that cafés, bars and restaurants could reopen in Paris on June 2 in the second phase of easing the country’s lockdown. Tables are expected to be much further apart than usual to allow for social distancing, while establishments are banned from serving customers for eating or drinking inside.

In a city with a similar population density to that of Mumbai, restaurants, cafés and bars have long been seen as an integral part of Parisian life, allowing people to escape the confines of sometimes cramped apartments.

But their reopening is even more of a relief for Paris’ restaurateurs, who were hit hard by France’s two months of full-blown lockdown, which ended on May 11. They lost 90 percent of their turnover in April and around 70 percent in May, according to Pascal Brun, a consultant and former CEO of the Frères Blanc restaurant group.

Brun noted, however, that life will not return to normal for restaurant owners anytime soon. In light of social distancing requirements and the ban on serving people inside, proprietors will be able to “reconnect with customers, but they won’t make any money”, he told AFP.

“We’re in a hurry” to get things going again, said one restaurant manager in Paris’s central 2nd arrondissement (district), who gave her name as Ludivine. She told AFP that the restaurant’s losses during the lockdown amounted to “tens of thousands of euros”.

To ease the situation for restaurateurs, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s office will allow establishments to extend their terraces beyond the usual area until September. The city also plans to temporarily close streets in tourist hotspots to give them extra space, including the iconic Marais district and Rue des Abbesses in Montmartre.

To ensure that the local residents can still get peace and quiet, establishments will have to fulfil a 10-point charter that will have to be displayed in their windows, including closure at 10pm and provisions to allow pedestrians to pass freely.

“Paris has to stand in solidarity with our restaurants and bars,” Hidalgo told local paper Le Parisien on Sunday. “They are the soul of our city.”


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