French cafe culture alive as virus restrictions lifted

Alaturka Saglik Haberleri

By Cindi Cook

PARIS (AA) – As France enters phase two of its de-confinement plan from the coronavirus, cafes, restaurants, and bars are allowed to reopen on Tuesday, much to the delight of loyal patrons.

Parisians especially are faithful to cafe life, with the outdoor space offering a respite from often cramped living quarters.

The city without cafes is like a house without walls or the sky without stars: It cannot stand, and it just does not shine as bright.

The reopening though comes with conditions: Seating can only happen outside, with the prospect that the close proximity of tables and chairs indoors could foment the spread of the virus. All tables must be at least one meter (3.2 feet) apart.

No more than 10 patrons can be seated at any given time and all must stay seated as well, which means for the moment standing at bars is prohibited.

Masks at many establishments are obligatory, worn by service staff and asked of patrons as they enter.

The rules were laid out by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in a televised address on Thursday.

Recovering from almost three months in lockdown however will be a challenge even for an eager populace.

During the month of April, cafes and restaurants lost 90% of their business, and 70% during the month of May, according to the Freres Blanc restaurant group. Only two-thirds of establishments in the capital have terraces as well, with the average space in any given cafe coming in at 10 square meters (107.6 square feet).

To make up for the loss of tables, as well as additional seats, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has allowed terraces to be extended beyond their usual area. Each cafe or restaurant can then add more tables on neighboring streets and sidewalks.

"To help them, the city of Paris will allow them to freely occupy sidewalks, streets, and parking spaces," the mayor said in a statement on Twitter.

Until September, the city has designated 23 areas where streets can be closed to aid in the addition of tables, especially in the very lively Marais, Montparnasse, and Montmartre neighborhoods.

Establishments will also have to close their doors by 10 p.m. each evening and keep the playing of music to a minimum, to discourage the congregation of patrons, thus the further spread of possible infection.

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