The Bataclan concert hall in Paris, where 90 people were killed by jihadists on November 13th, could re-open by the end of next year, two of its owners told a French newspaper on Wednesday.
Olivier Poubelle and Jules Frutos, who book the acts and own a third of the theatre as well as several other music venues around the French capital, told Le Monde of their devastation over the attacks.
“Two of our colleagues are dead. As are music professionals that we knew well. Others are seriously injured. I was not in the theatre and I think about that all the time,” said Poubelle.
“An emergency worker told me 'You're not responsible', but still…”
Poubelle rushed to the venue on the fateful night, while the three-hour siege was still underway and people trapped inside were being gunned down.
“There were dead and injured all around,” he said. “(The police) wanted to know the layout and what they were going to find behind the door, how to get upstairs as quickly as possible.”
The two colleagues who died — a lighting technician and press person — worked at another venue and were simply on a night out, enjoying the gig by US rockers Eagles of Death Metal.
None of the 20-odd staff working that night were killed, though Poubelle told Le Monde that several “came within 10 centimetres (a few inches) of dying”.
Three bar staff hid in a storeroom, desperately holding the door closed with the tips of their fingers.
“Two security guards at the entrance saved lives,” Poubelle told the newspaper.
“They understood what was going on when they heard the gunfire in the bar.
“They didn't run, they went inside… and opened the emergency exits and shouted for everyone to leave.”
He said the teams from the five venues the pair own have stuck together since the attacks, trying to offer each other support and solidarity.
“When I saw the photos of the victims, there were many that I recognised,” added Frutos. “I may have never talked to them… but I've seen them in the hall or the bar. It's a terrible feeling.
“The only thing to say is that a 'joie de vivre' was murdered,” he added.
They described the area — the 11th district in eastern Paris — as one of the more mixed and left-wing in France, but criticised attempts to label or politicise the attacks.
“They just wanted to kill as many people as possible,” said Poubelle.
Neither has been back inside since the violence, but still pass in front every day to see the crowds and mountain of tributes.
But they are keen for the music to return.
“It should not become a mausoleum. Or a site of pilgrimage,” said Frutos.
“The team wants a reconstruction, the artists too. We talk about it a lot. But it will be a long road,” he told the newspaper.
“We are dead for the moment. But we need life. It's vital that the doors reopen.”
Eagles of Death Metal have said they want to play the first concert if the Bataclan re-opens.
Other targeted venues to reopen
(Cafe Bonne Biere is set to reopen on Friday. Photo: AFP)
While the Bataclan is unlikely to open before the end of 2016, other venues that were hit by the terrorists should re-open in the coming weeks.
The first set to open its doors to clients is the Cafe Bonne Biere, where five people were gunned down on the terrace.
It is set to reopen its doors on Friday with management having made some changes to the lay-out “for psychological reasons”.
The restaurant Le Petit Cambodge and and Le Carillon bar, which stand just around the corner from the Cafe Bonne Biere, have also announced their intention to reopen.
While it is believed Le Petit Cambodge will wait until 2016, Le Carillon's owners told The Local they may reopen on December 10th.