The building in the trendy 10th arrondissement of Paris was in the process of being converted into a third branch of the popular Cambodian restaurant Le Petit Cambodge when it was squatted three months ago.
The occupiers claimed their actions were targeting symbols of “gentrification,” denouncing how “luxury and bohemian restaurants” had overtaken the area, pushing up rents and forcing others to move.
Rapidly rising rents, for both commercial and domestic property, has been a problem in Paris for several years, with families increasingly being priced out of the city and moving out to the cheaper suburbs.
But the owners of the restaurant said they were in fact a small, local chain, based in the neighbourhood, and had already begun renovating the property ready for when restaurants will be allowed to reopen.
“Le Petit Cambodge is not McDonalds, it's a small neighbourhood restaurant,” one of the restaurant's lawyers, Marine Rogé, told French media.
“They got the wrong target,” Ian Brossat, Deputy Mayor in charge of housing in Paris, told Le Parisien
“The fight against gentrification is a real challenge that deserves better than actions of this type.”
The court's decision of “immediate expulsion”, issued on January 4th, ordered the squatters to leave the premises within 48 hours.
The court also ruled that the squatters would have to pay €153 for each day of their occupation in damages. The squatters took over the establishment on November 14th 2020.
“We could not have hoped for better results,” Christian Gallois, one of Le Petit Cambodge's co-managers, told Le Figaro
after the ruling.
Homeowners in who fall victim of squatters in France have long been fighting an uphill battle to get them removed.
Under current French law, the owner must file a complaint against the squatters within 48 hours to get them immediately expelled. If they fail to meet that deadline, the process can take months.
The French government has said it intends to simplify the law to make it easier to owners to reclaim their property more quickly.
The squatted establishment was supposed to become the third Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, the other two also in the same neighbourhood.
Le Petit Cambodge first opened its doors in Paris in 1996. In 2015, the owners expanded their business into a second restaurant.
In November that same year, one of Le Petit Cambodge restaurants fell victim of the Paris terror attacks, when armed extremist Islamists went on a shooting rampage targeting the capital's cafés and bars.
Following the attack, the City of Paris offered the owners the third establishment to rent.
“What state will the place be in? I have the impression that there has not been a lot of damages,” Gallois said, adding that they “hope to be able to open mid March”.
France's restaurants closed in October, when the government toughened measures to stem the spread of the Covid-19 virus. They had already been closed for three months in the spring during the first lockdown.
The government has postponed their reopening date due to a viral resurgence, saying it will “at the earliest” be in mid February.