Parisians Reclaim Their Café Culture
Sun, April 18, 2021

Parisians Reclaim Their Café Culture



The Parisian café is an icon that is as synonymous with Eiffel Tower. Even if the weather in Europe is changing frequently, small round tables are seen outside the cafes in Paris with people sitting there with a newspaper, a café crème, or an espresso. But the Covid-19 closures have been a punch in the gut to Paris’ well-known “joie de vivre,” a French phrase used to express a cheerful enjoyment of life.



Café closures in Paris due to Covid-19

After the French government ordered bistros and restaurants to close to contain the spread of coronavirus, Paris streets became eerily quiet with no one drinking coffee in the sidewalk cafes. Mohamed Fatnassi, who is in charge of the evening service at the popular bar and restaurant Closerie des Lilas, said Paris was like “a horse without a rider.”

Eateries and cafes have been an essential part of the social life in France ever since the first café appeared in the 17th century in Paris. They are so important to France’s social cohesion that even the government previously launched a plan to make sure that they survive. Portuguese tourist Artur Rodriguez, who was staying in France during the shutdown, said it felt “very strange.”

As the country enters phase two of its de-confinement plan from the virus, bars, restaurants, and cafes are now allowed to reopen. This news was received with delight by the loyal patrons, according to local news Anadolu Agency.



Why Parisians are faithful to the café life

The cafes in the capital of France are an institution. It is not so much about the coffee but the place to meet people, the reason why Parisian cafes are rarely empty regardless of the time of day, the weather, or the neighborhood. Parisians and tourists find cafes a comfortable place to sit unbothered for hours with friends, a book, or simply watching all sorts of passersby. During summer, people sit at the café tables enjoying the views of Paris and the sun. When it’s snowing or raining, there are heaters at the cafes for warmth.

Most cafes in Paris are brasseries, where people come for a meal or snack, says Flor der Agopian, who grew up and lives in the southwest suburb of Paris.



The first day cafes were allowed to open after 11 weeks of closure, customers were seen enjoying their morning espressos. However, strict rules were implemented in Paris. Seating can only happen outside the café and chairs and tables have to be at least one meter apart. At any given time, no more than ten patrons can be seated. In other parts of France, customers can be served inside the cafes but they still have to maintain the same physical distance.

Recovering from almost three months of shutdown can be a challenge for café owners and the eager populace. In April alone, restaurants and cafes lost 90% of their business and 70% in May, according to the restaurant group Freres Blanc. They shared that only two-thirds of the establishments in Paris have terraces and the average space to serve more customers while social distancing.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo permitted café owners to extend their terraces beyond their usual area to make up for the loss of seats and tables. Each restaurant or café can add more tables on the neighboring sidewalks or streets as well.

The Mayor also tweeted that to help these business owners, the city will allow customers to freely occupy the parking spaces, streets, and sidewalks. Until September, the City of Lights will allot 23 areas where streets can be closed to put the additional tables, particularly in the Montmartre, Montparnasse, and Marais neighborhoods.

It is also required that establishments close their doors by 10 pm every evening and keep the music to a minimum so there will be fewer patrons congregating in the café, thus, lessening the risk of possible Covid-19 infection.



Most expensive cities for a cappuccino

Database company Statista shared that Copenhagen has the highest cappuccino prices at $6.30 per cup on average in 2019 while Dubai ranked second with prices as high as $6 per cup. Other cities included in the list are Hong Kong ($5.70 per cup of cappuccino), Oslo ($5.50), Paris ($5.50), Singapore ($5.4), Shanghai ($5.30), Boston ($5.2), Zurich ($5.10), Helsinki ($5), New York ($5), and Chicago ($4.90).

Between January and February 2017, the monthly average revenues of cafes in France reached €12,000 while hotel-restaurants earned €19,000 in January and €26,000 the following month. Bar, hotel, and foodservice earned €14,000 in January and €16,000 in February. Open-air hotels, such as camping and bungalow type, in France, earned €21,000 in January and €15,000 in February 2017.



Further easing of restrictions in France

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that in a further easing of restrictions in France, all travel restrictions have been lifted. Sunbathing on beaches was also allowed again. However, the country is still facing tough times as its economy is forecast to decline by 11% this 2020, the finance ministry said.

The country’s Covid-19 tracking app StopCovid is scheduled to be released but it has been delayed by some technical issues. The tracking app, which was developed independently of Google and Apple, should allow anyone in France who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 to warn others with whom they have been in contact in the last two weeks so that they can also be tested.

New cases of Covid-19 were declining steadily in western Europe, according to the World Health Organization, but there are rising hotspots in eastern Europe and Russia.  As of June 2, France’s total Covid-19 cases are 151,325, 98% or 52,3220 of which are in mild condition while the remaining 2% or 1,253 patients are in serious or critical condition, according to Worldometers.

While cafes in Paris are now open, it may take a while to experience the old French Rhythm, which is relaxed. Sociability also will not be the same as before as they still have to observe the social distancing rules and some people continue to wear face masks for protection. Nevertheless, they can still savor the moment while they are sipping their espresso outdoors after the 11-week coronavirus lockdown.