Chefs warn: Forty percent of France’s cafés and bistrots may not reopen after lockdown

Chefs warn: Forty percent of France's cafés and bistrots may not reopen after lockdown
France's cafés, bars and restaurants have been closed since March 15th. Photo: AFP
Café and bistrot owners across France have sounded the alarm saying that up to 40 per cent of them may never reopen even after the lockdown is lifted.

Such an integral part of France that there is a move to give them UNESCO World Heritage Status as a cultural asset, cafés and bistrots are in danger.

While the rest of France is looking forward to May 11th, when conditions of the country's strict lockdown will begin to be eased, bars, restaurants and cafés are specifically excluded from this.

READ ALSO This is how France's lockdown will end

Chef Philippe Etchebest has warned of a 'massacre' of the catering industry. Photo: AFP

The earliest they will reopen is the early summer, and for many business owners, that has sounded a death knell for sites already badly hit by transport strikes in December which saw thousands of tourists cancelling their trips.

“A lot of restaurants are going out of business, it's going to be a massacre,” Bordeaux-based chef Philippe Etchebest, who is also a judge on popular TV cookery competition Top Chef, told French media.
 
“Forty percent of them won't reopen and that's going to leave a lot of people out of business.
 
“And for those that do reopen, if they reopen at half capacity, how will they do it? I am pragmatic: my establishment serves 80 covers. If we go to 40, when I've organised my staff for double that, I'm going to have to let go of half the staff.
 
“Catering represents 1 million jobs.”
 

Roland Héguy, head of the hospitality union UMIH told Le Parisien: “95 percent of our businesses are closed, and the 5 percent that remain open, generally restaurants that have maintained takeaway sales, are taking 10 percent of last year's turnover.

“If measures are not taken quickly, 40,000 to 50,000 companies will go bankrupt.”

Against the backdrop of this crisis union leaders are meeting officials at the Finance Ministry to come up with a rescue package for the bars, restaurants, cafés and tourist sites that will all be remaining closed for at least another two months.

There is also a petition – signed by 130,000 people so far – calling for insurance companies to pay out on business interruption insurance which the majority of companies have said does not cover events such as the lockdown.

Many bars and restaurants have launched their own appeals for regular customers to donate to keep them afloat under the banner Sauve ton resto (save your restaurant) which allows people to either make a donation or buy vouchers to future meals in order to keep cash flowing to the restaurants.

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