Paris’ extended café terraces return for the summer

Originally brought in a temporary Covid-related measure, Paris authorities have granted hundreds of licences to bars, cafés and restaurants to extend their outdoor spaces from April 1st.

Extended terraces, demarcated with wooden pallets, have become a common summer fixture in Paris
Extended terraces, demarcated with wooden pallets, have become a common summer fixture in Paris (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

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 and is now back again, this time rebranded as ‘summer terraces’ for customers to enjoy in the city from 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. 

Nina Claudel, left, is excited at the prospect of extended terraces coming back in Paris.

Nina Claudel, left, is excited at the prospect of extended terraces coming back in Paris. (Source: The Local/Sam Bradpiece)

She has submitted her application for a summer terrace licence and is awaiting authorisation.

“People want to go out and live their lives, forget about the difficult times and enjoy the beautiful weather,” she said.

Authorities in the French capital have now voted on new rules to keep the scheme. From April 1st until October 31st, venues can operate terrasses estivales (summer terraces), provided they have a licence.

So far 1,600 licences have been granted, and many more are still pending.

“The demand is extremely high and these terraces are justified in a health context that requires vigilance,” explained Emmanuel Grégoire, a city official quoted in Le Parisien.  

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. 

The City will run a competition to see which establishment sets up the most beautiful terrace. 

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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Former Louvre museum director charged in art trafficking case

The former president of the Louvre museum in Paris has been charged with conspiring to hide the origin of Egyptian archaeological treasures that investigators suspect were spirited out of the country during the Arab Spring uprisings, a French judicial source said Thursday.

Former Louvre museum director charged in art trafficking case

Jean-Luc Martinez was charged Wednesday after being taken in for questioning along with two French specialists in Egyptian art, who were not charged, another source close to the inquiry told AFP.

The Louvre, which is owned by the French state, is the world’s most visited museum with around 10 million visitors a year before the Covid-19 pandemic and is home to some of Western civilization’s most celebrated cultural heritage.

The museum declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

French investigators opened the case in July 2018, two years after the Louvre’s branch in Abu Dhabi bought a rare pink granite stele depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun and four other historic works for eight million euros ($8.5 million).

Martinez, who ran the Paris Louvre from 2013 to 2021, is accused of turning a blind eye to fake certificates of origin for the pieces, a fraud thought to involve several other art experts, according to French investigative weekly Canard Enchaine.

He has been charged with complicity in fraud and “concealing the origin of criminally obtained works by false endorsement,” according to the judicial source.

Martinez is currently the French foreign ministry’s ambassador in charge of international cooperation on cultural heritage, which focuses in particular on fighting art trafficking.

“Jean-Luc Martinez contests in the strongest way his indictment in this case,” his lawyers told AFP in a statement.

Arab Spring looting

“For now, he will reserve his declarations for the judiciary, and has no doubt that his good faith will be established,” they said.

French investigators suspect that hundreds of artefacts were pillaged from Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries during protests in the early 2010s that became known as the Arab Spring.

They suspect the artefacts were then sold to galleries and museums that did not ask too many questions about previous ownership.

Martinez’s indictment comes after the German-Lebanese gallery owner who brokered the sale, Robin Dib, was arrested in Hamburg in March and extradited to Paris for questioning.

Marc Gabolde, a French Egyptologist, was quoted by Canard Enchaine as saying that he informed Louvre officials about suspicions related to the Tutankhamun stele but received no response.

The opening of the inquiry in 2018 roiled the Paris art market, a major hub for antiquities from Middle Eastern civilisations.

In June 2020, prominent Paris archaeology expert Christophe Kunicki and dealer Richard Semper were charged with fraud for false certification of looted works from several countries during the Arab Spring.

They also had a role in certifying another prized Egyptian work, the gilded sarcophagus of the priest Nedjemankh that was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2017.

Gabolde said an Egyptian art dealer, Habib Tawadros, was also involved in both suspect deals.

After New York prosecutors determined that the sarcophagus had been stolen during the revolts against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Met said it had been a victim of false statements and fake documentation, and returned the coffin to Egypt.