Happy April Fools Day to all our readers! This article and the names and restaurants of the people involved, including Femi Labouche, were all made up to celebrate the fine and longstanding tradition of April Fools or Poisson d’Avril as it is known in French (see below for more details).
Relations between tourists and waiters at Parisian cafés have been notoriously fraught over the years and they look set to worsen thanks to a new movement that seeks to turn down the volume on loud foreigners.
Fed up with the din from English speaking clients, cafés and brasseries across the city are signing up to the MEP! campaign, which stands for Manger en Paix (or "Eat in Peace" in English).
The crusade was launched in March by the notoriously hardline organisation UPRCBSMB (Union of Paris restaurants, cafés, brasseries and small and medium sized bistros) and was the brainchild of one restaurant owner in the 1st arrondissement who said the city's famed refined dining culture was under threat from "foreign foghorns".
"It's about respect for the city of Paris, for its history, its gastronomy, and its waiters," said Alain Gueulard, owner of the renowned La Bibliotheque restaurant.
"These people – and yes I am mainly talking about Americans, British, Irish and Australians, New Zealanders and Spanish – show no respect for other diners, particularly French ones," said Gueulard.
"They talk like they're at a heavy metal festival whereas any Parisian who has been brought up how to eat with etiquette knows that dining out is more like listening to a classical music concert. You just can't shout!" said another restaurant owner Ivor Maloreilles.
"We welcome tourists and we welcome their money and their tips. They just need to realise that mouths are for eating not shouting," he added.
(One of the "Eat in Peace" posters placed in the window of a bar in the 11th arrondissment).
The union's campaign is a multi-pronged attack on noisy diners. Restaurants that sign up are given posters to display in windows and placemats for tables that warn diners they are in an "Eat in Peace" environment.
The logos show what appears to be camera-wearing tourists speaking loudly with a red cross through them. Beneath the images are warnings, in English, encouraging patrons to keep their voice down. Although some posters are more aggressive in their demands and badly translated from French into English (see below).
(This image taken at a restaurant near the Marais was sent in by a shocked reader.)
Waiters are invited to employ a kind of "three strikes and you're out" system, meaning diners can be asked to pay and leave on the third warning for their loud behaviour – unless they order dessert, which allows them an extra warning before being ushered out.
And if they order a cheese board, coffee and a digestif then its six and out.
While the campaign runs the risk of seeing restaurants lose business as offended tourists are likely to take their money where its wanted, surprisingly many establishments across the city appeared to have signed up to the campaign.
"Tourists must understand we are in Paris, not London, New York or Glasgow. If they want to scream in each others ears then they should go to a swingers club, not a bistro," said Femi Labouche, owner of the famed Michelin star diner "Quoi Quoi" on Rue des Rêves, in the 3rd arrondissement.
Labouche has had to hand out warnings on a nightly basis but says many tourists are grateful when he asks their friends to be quiet.
A spokesman for the Town Hall said the campaign was not supported by the mayor.
"She is against it, totally," the spokesman told The Local, although there are rumours some Paris councillors want to explore the possibility of a similar scheme being implemented on the Metro.
Naturally tourists, expats, foreigners and immigrants have reacted angrily to the campaign.
One furious Irish expat told The Local that the "Eat in Peace" campaign was the final straw for him.
"That's it for me now. I am packing my bags and going home. I have had it with this city. The arrogance of Parisians astounds me," said the man who asked to remain anonymous.
"Although to be fair I'm sick of having to tell Americans to be quiet. They are incredibly loud. In fact it doesn't surprise me at all. Good on Paris," he added.
If anyone was in any doubt about how serious Paris waiters are taking this campaign then footage posted online at the weekend should make it clear.
Although it cannot be verified, it appears to show a diner being forcibly asked to leave a restaurant because he disobeyed the eating rules.
It is not known who posted the video, but the caption in French reads "A loud tourist thrown out of the bar. It's completely crazy".
The Local is trying to track down the "victim" in the video. If you know who he is, contact [email protected]
Well done if you managed to see through our April Fools story. While many readers were taken in, others, with perhaps more knowledge of French, realised something was fishy when they spotted the names Mr Gueulard (Shouter) and Mr Maloreilles (Sore ears) as well as "Femi Labouche", which is almost French for “shut up”.
One of the reasons why we chose the subject was that we have heard numerous reports of Anglo expats being told off in bars for being too loud. It does appear to be an issue and we’ll be following it up with a more serious article shortly.
Oh and no need to help identify the man seen in the video being thrown out of the Paris bistro, or the lads in the tweet below. They are indeed very well known to The Local.