France offers more aid for bar owners as anger grows over closures

The French government has unveiled extra measures to help bar and restaurant owners as anger grows over closures.

France offers more aid for bar owners as anger grows over closures
"Stop the dictatorship" reads the sign over one of the few restaurants in Marseille that did not comply with the government's new rules an declined to shut down on Monday. Photo: AFP

Under the latest Covid-19 health restrictions, bars in 11 French cities – including Paris – have been ordered to close at 10pm while in Marseille all bars and restaurants must close altogether for two weeks.

This has sparked protests from bar owners in Marseille, while one of France's best known chefs has called for a national demonstration on Friday to express the anger of the industry.

“We need to make some noise, show that we are there, that we are dying,” said Philippe Etchebest, a restaurant owner in Bordeaux, best known as a judge in the popular TV show Top Chef France.

After receiving a delegation from the hospitality industry on Tuesday morning, the French government has now announced extra help for the sector, already reeling under the impact of the two-month closure during lockdown.


Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has announced that the furlough scheme known as chomage partiel (partial unemployment) would be made fully available for all hospitality businesses until December 31st.

Whereas the rest of French businesses may access a pared-down version of the scheme, bar and restaurant owners will, along with the tourism sector, be able to get their employees salaries covered with 100 percent backing from the state.

“This will allow us to preserve jobs and the employees of this sector,” the economy minister said.

Le Maire also reiterated a previous promise to increase and extend the “solidarity fund” available to businesses which suffered big economic losses during the lockdown, which now will provide grants for all bars and restaurants whose incomes were slashed during this period of closures.

The fund, previously at €1,500 per month maximum, would be bumped up to €10,000 (the total amount a business receives will depend on their losses), the minister said.

“This sum will be available [to owners] over the course of October,” Le Maire told French press.

In addition to the help schemes, all establishments concerned by he new rules that saw their incomes disappear this period would “not have to pay social charges” on their employees' wages, Le Maire said. He did not provide further details on exactly how much income had to be lost in order to benefit from this measure.

To date there has not yet been a reaction from sector on whether the new measures were sufficient to call off Friday's protest action.

Etchebest had called all restaurant and bar owners and their employees to “gather in front of their establishments with a black armband” on Friday at 11.45am, just before lunch, to show that they were “drowning” economically speaking.

Etchebest, who was a guest at France Info’s evening show Les Informées on Monday, was speaking from his wine bar in Bordeaux, one of the 11 cities considered at a “heightened risk” by the French government, which means all bars must close their doors at 10pm the latest for a period of two weeks.

Restaurants in these areas can stay open later.

In Marseille, the city currently suffering the most in France from high Covid-19 rates and increased pressure on hospitals, both restaurants and bars had to close down completely for at least one week as of midnight on Sunday.

The government has said it will extend the period if the situation does not improve in the seven coming days.

Etchebest said the protest action would be in solidarity with restaurants and bars in Marseille and bars in all the 11 other cities concerned by the new rules.

Reeling sector

Health Minister Olivier Véran announced the new rules on Wednesday evening in a live speech to where he said swift action had to be taken to halt the deteriorating situation across the country.

But the new rules stirred up a deep-set discontent in the sector that predated last week's announcements.

France’s restaurants and bars were among the businesses 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 strike movement, which saw their customer numbers plunge in December 2019 and January 2020.

Etchebest, who has spoken up several times about the sector's sufferings since lockdown, said he predicted “30 percent [of the sector] to go bankrupt” by the end of the year.



Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Medical row in France over unauthorised Covid trial

French medical bodies on Sunday called on authorities to punish researcher Didier Raoult for "the largest 'unauthorised' clinical trial ever seen" into the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19.

Medical row in France over unauthorised Covid trial

French medical bodies on Sunday called on authorities to punish researcher Didier Raoult for “the largest ‘unauthorised’ clinical trial ever seen” into the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19.

Raoult, the former head of the IHU Mediterranee research hospital, and his subordinates engaged in “systematic prescription of medications as varied as hydroxychloroquine, zinc, ivermectin and azithromycin to patients suffering from Covid-19… without a solid pharmacological basis and lacking any proof of their effectiveness,” a group of 16 research bodies wrote in an op-ed piece  on daily Le Monde’s website.

The drugs continued to be prescribed “for more than a year after their ineffectiveness had been absolutely demonstrated,” they added.

Endorsement from respected tropical disease specialist Raoult helped push anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine into the public consciousness in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, feeding into its promotion by former US President Donald Trump and Brazil’s then-leader Jair Bolosonaro.

In April, France’s ANSM medications authority said that treatment with hydroxichloroquine “exposes patients to potential side effects that can be serious”.

The doctors’ bodies said Sunday that authorities should take “measures appropriate to the infractions” for the sake of patient safety and “the credibility of French medical research”.

Raoult in March published a “pre-print” study — not yet submitted for scientific peer review — into treatment of more than 30,000 Covid-19 patients.

So far no one has been charged in a probe opened last year by Marseille prosecutors into fraud and unwarranted human testing at the IHU Mediterranee, based in the southern port city.

The government has also requested an investigation into the IHU’s conduct under Raoult’s management following a harsh report from inspectors.

Health Minister Francois Braun told broadcaster RTL on Sunday that he would not comment on an open investigation, but confirmed that the latest study would be included in the probe’s remit.

Raoult retired as a professor in summer 2021 and was replaced at the IHU Mediterrannee last August.

A spokesman said he remained an emeritus professor and was still supervising two doctoral students who began work on their theses before he left.

At the IHU itself, all clinical trials involving humans have been suspended since Raoult’s replacement Pierre-Edouard Fournier took over.

The hospital told AFP it was waiting for the ANSM drug regulator’s word before resuming the trials.

“The IHU has to show it has met expectations” before human testing would be allowed, the ANSM said, without setting out a timeframe.