Paris' extended café terraces return for the summer

Sam Bradpiece
Sam Bradpiece - [email protected]
Paris' extended café terraces return for the summer
Extended terraces, demarcated with wooden pallets, have become a common summer fixture in Paris (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Originally brought in a temporary Covid-related measure, expanded café terraces have now become a fixture of Paris in the summer, and will return once again on April 1st.


In a bid to avoid the spread of the virus in indoor spaces and respect social distancing, Paris authorities in 2020 granted temporary licences for cafés to extend their outdoor seating areas onto pavements, parking spaces or even the street.

The scheme was so popular that it returned in 2021 and the city then decided to make it a permanent feature, rebranded as terrasses estivales (summer terraces) for customers to enjoy in the city between April 1st and October 31st.

Businesses must now apply for a licence for their temporary terraces, at a cost from €1,000, depending on the style and size of terraces, and there are also rules on the structure and style of the temporary spaces.

But despite the administration, many bars and cafés leapt at the chance to expand their seating areas and the city expects to see a profusion of new terrace spaces again when the scheme reopens on Saturday, April 1st.

"It truly helped us during the pandemic. People preferred to be outside," said Nina Claudel, the bar manager at Le Pavillon des Canaux - a cultural venue, restaurant, cafe and well-served drinking hole in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, which has regularly set up summer terraces.

In 2022, more than 2,000 venues appplied for licences.

Rim Zaouit, a guitar maker who regularly visits the city, is delighted at the news. 

"It is much more agreeable to have space outside. It is healthy to be outside and people are more relaxed. Getting Vitamin D  from the sun is a good way to counterbalance the drinking," he laughed. 

Venues are obliged to get authorisation from the City Council and pay for the right to set-up a summer terrace. The cost varies according to when and where you install seating - moving chairs onto a delivery spot before the end of August for example could cost €1,500. 

Kanji, a barman at Paris' Bar Ourcq, next to the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, said the cost is worth it. 

"On a hot day, we can double or even triple the number of customers. There is a lot of foot traffic," he said. 


The rules state that venues operating summer terraces are obliged to close them by 10pm to avoid disrupting the lives of local residents, although the early closing on applies to the extended terrace area. Failing to respect closing times or operating an extended terrace without a license, could land customers with fines between €68 to €500 and a ban on setting up terraces in the future.

"It is out of the question that we will deliver an authorisation to businesses that have repeatedly committed offences," said Ariel Weil, the mayor of the central Paris arrondissements, in an interview with Le Parisien

The new rules also state that the terraces must comply with standards of "aesthetic quality", with temporary tarpaulins and wooden pallets banned. Only chairs and parasols are allowed, with any other paraphernalia over 1m 30cm excluded, in an attempt to keep public spaces free. 


Terrace cafés have been a feature of Parisian culture since the 19th Century - it is only the extended form brought in to deal with the Covid crisis that is new.

"Café terraces represent the the spirit of Paris and Parisian liberty in a certain way," said Patrick Rambourg, a historian.

"What did terrorists target during the attacks that we suffered a few years ago? Café terraces. It is not anodyne. They wanted to impact the heart of French civilisation," he said in a video published on the Paris City website.



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