Night-time revellers would have had their choice of some 4,000 clubs across France in the 1980s, but things are a bit different today.
Some 1,800 nightspots have seen their last boozy night over the past 30 years, leaving around 2,200 left today, according to a new study from a French musician royalties and copyright association Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique.
While the decline has been a measured and constant drop, the years from 2010-13 are when the industry really went over a cliff. In those three years 800 clubs closed and turnover fell by 30 percent, French daily Le Parisien reported.
Paris’s so-called 'Nightlife Mayor' Clement Leon R. — elected by revellers and unaffiliated with Paris Town Hall — told The Local the reasons for the decline are a mix of new laws and changing society.
While France’s 2008 ban on indoor smoking didn't help, leading clubs to spending the money to install smoking areas, the economic downturn was also a hindrance. But Leon R., who doesn’t use his family name in an effort to protect himself for anti-nightlife activists, said there is more to it.
“There are new ways to go out, there are pop-up parties in the suburbs in Paris and other big French cities,” said Leon R. of the electronic music events in chateaux or abandoned factories. “It’s cheaper, it’s freer and, in fact, the party-goers get treated better there than in nightclubs.”
Night clubs can be selective, the drinks are expensive and so for a younger generation trying to start careers amid France’s record high unemployment rate, pop-up options are quite attractive, Leon R says. With money less the focus at pop-up parties, revellers get a different experience.
“The people at these parties are there more because they want to have a good time than to spend money,” Leon R. said. “Nightclubs have not been able to keep up, to provide this festive touch and so they are gradually closing.”
Speaking specifically of Paris, Leon R. also has seen an overzealous return to restrictive, tightly enforced policies that had been abandoned in the 1980s. Now bars that aren’t closed by 2am risk a fine or the loss of their liquor license.
There are also the hostile neighbors who are trying to flex political power by closing down nightspots they don’t like, he says. It’s something Leon R. sees an ineffective, to put it nicely.
“They are trying to kill nightlife,” he said. “But they are just driving it into the street where there are no rules.”