Three weeks ago to the day terrorist gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs went on a killing spree on the terraces of bars and restaurants across Paris.
At the Café Bonne Biere, which stands on the corner between the tenth and the 11th arrondissements, five customers were shot dead on the terrace which sweeps around the building on Rue du Faubourg du Temple.
Since November 13th the once-bustling terrace and cafe has been cordoned off with police tape as mourners left flowers, candles, messages of support and photos of the victims who lost their lives.
But on Friday the café reopened to the public. It is the first of several venues targeted by the terrorists to get back to business.
As expected given the global coverage of the attacks the reopening prompted a media frenzy at the cafe, a sign that it may take a while to return to normal.
Speaking to the media outside, the bar's manager Audrey Bily thanked local residents for their support and offered all their condolences to the families of those killed.
“This is a big moment for us to welcome back our customers. We are a big family here together. This has always been a place of sharing and conviviality. Now we want to get going again,” Bily said.
Bar manager Audrey Bily, right. Photo: The Local
Construction workers have replaced the bullet-ridden glass panels, and on Thursday removed the broken chairs and tables that were no doubt crushed as people stampeded inside for safety.
The owners have said certain changes have been made to the layout for “psychological reasons”. The pavement is still bedecked with flowers and candles although the makeshift shrine has been reduced so people can pass by.
On Friday a banner reading “Je suis en terrasse” (I am on the terrace) – one of the many mottos of resistance that emerged since the attacks, hung above the entrance.
Local Parisians at the scene on Thursday were united in their support for the reopening.
Thierry, a 42-year-old, said that the period for reflection had been necessary, but that it was “time to turn the page”.
“We can't let it just be a cemetery here,” he told The Local, adding that he wouldn't be afraid to be among those on the terrace taking a coffee.
“There's no difference between this terrace and any other in Paris. If people are scared, then they can eat inside. Life goes on,” he said.
Others suggested that it was a courageous move by the café staff, but a vital one.
“It's important to reopen and to get the community back together,” said Aissa, who works at the florist two doors down (pictured below).
“The attack didn't just affect the Bonne Biere and its customers – it affected all of the people who live and work around here. It's like a village feeling, we all know each other, and it hit us very hard.”
He said that reopening would be an integral part of the healing process.
“It's been touching, but extremely tough for us to see people every single day in tears. It's time to get back to our lives.”
Khaled, a 51-year-old who works at the supermarket across the road, said he is a regular at the Bonne Biere and was on the terrace just hours before the terrorists attacked.
“I'm glad they've reopened – I had three coffees there already this morning,” he said.
He said that even the “bastard terrorists” couldn't ruin his daily routine.
“We want to have our coffee there in the morning, see the regular faces, then come back again at the end of the day for a beer and a cigarette.”
Meanwhile, across the road, the Casa Nostra remains firmly closed, but the other venues hit by the terrorists have vowed to reopen in the coming weeks.
City workers have cleared flowers from both of two nearby venues that were also hit – Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, where 15 people lost their lives.
Le Carillon may reopen on December 10th, while owner of Le Petit Cambodge says they will wait until the new year.
The Bataclan concert hall further down the road remains closed too, for the foreseeable future. The owners have vowed to reopen towards the end of 2016.