Today @TheLocalFrance asked restaurant workers in Paris about how they feel about the government potentially closing them down over the weekend in a bid to slow down the spread of Covid-19 in the capital. Here’s a look at what they said. Thread. pic.twitter.com/iUw7T4NcrI
— Ingri Bergo (@ingribergo) October 2, 2020
“Normally, our tables would be full at this hour and it would have been impossible for me to have this conversation with you,” Ramon, 22, a waiter at Gaston told The Local while he gesticulated around to the empty restaurant.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has repeatedly vowed that the government would not leave those hurt by the new rules behind, and promised to further bolster already existing help schemes to provide economic aid to ease the blows.
France has set up a dazzling €100 billion rescue package to boost the country's reeling economy and prevent the pandemic from provoking mass bankruptcies and layoffs by keeping long-term economic help schemes in place for struggling businesses.
The government also said the measures were key to stop the spiralling Covid-19 rates and ease the mounting pressure on hospitals in hard-hit areas, a position backed by several hospital spokespeople.
But the decision to target bars and restaurants specifically stirred up a deep-set discontent in the sector that predated last week's announcements.
France’s restaurant and bar owners were, along with the tourism sector, among those who suffered the most from the two months of strict nationwide lockdown this spring.
Prior to that, they saw their incomes drop during first the “yellow vest” protests every weekend – especially in Paris where the biggest and most violent protests were held – and then during the transport strikes, which saw their customer numbers plunge in December 2019 and January 2020.
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) September 30, 2020
Northeast in Paris, in the 9th arrondissement, several hospitality sector workers participated in the protests.
Pas de brassard noir, mais des bruits de casseroles au Mesturet à Paris 9eme. Coupe de champagne et soupe à l’oignon offerts aux passants pour dénoncer la fermeture des bars et restaurants. #restaurant #bars #coronavirus #COVID19 @Chef_Etchebest pic.twitter.com/a1IfKDlE1C
— lhotellerieLHR (@lhotellerieLHR) October 2, 2020
But in the streets around Contrescarpe, no black sleeved protesters were to be seen and none of the restaurants The Local spoke to knew the protest was happening.
“I hadn't heard about it, but I really support the initiative,” said Paolo, the owner of an Italian restaurant in Rue de Mouffetard.
Paolo was angry about what he said was another blow to a suffering neighbourhood and sector, that was trying to do its best to adapt to the difficult circumstances.
“I just filled up my fridge and now I'll probably have to throw away all the food once again, just like I had to before lockdown,” he told The Local.
Paolo had opened his restaurant in February, barely a month before the strict, nationwide lockdown entered into effect in March. Since then, things had just gone downhill, he said.
“Honestly, I just hope we will survive this. But I think that in a few months a lot of establishments will have to close down for good,” he said.
“The bistros are suffering even more than us, we're doing a lot of fast-food and take-away so we're able to serve the students in the area.”
The government's solidarity fund will provide up to €10,000 per month for the establishments suffering from the new rules, but Paolo said even this would not enough to pay back the several months of rent that had piled on top of each other since lockdown (the hospitality sector has been able to postpone their rents temporarily and pay them back later).
“My rent is €3,600 a month. Either the government will have to erase our debt, or it's going to be the end of us,” Paolo said.