Macron revolt: Furious protests in France as restaurants vow to RE-OPEN despite lockdown

France: Police clash with protesters during street demonstration

Hundreds of restaurants and pubs in France planned to reopen yesterday in an act of defiance against the French government and the ongoing coronavirus restrictions. Businesses owners said it was a “cry of alarm”.

Steven Berniere’s restaurant Les Voutes is a family-run business with around a hundred seats which normally operates all year round.

He said he would put tables out on the terrace but without any chairs in order to comply with the measures imposed by the government.

He said: “We are going to put the tables on the terrace, but without the chairs to comply with the standards.

“We are expecting more than fifty people and a visit from the police.

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“It is a cry of alarm, I haven’t received the aid for the month of December yet and the take-away side is not enough to keep us alive!

“We want to work! We want to show the government that we can reopen, even if we have to adopt more strict health rules!”

Another restaurant owner in Beziers said he has not received a salary for a year and is ready to go on a “hunger strike”.

The protest was organised by chef Stephane Turillomn of the restaurant La Source Bleue in Doubs.

However, after a warning from police, Mr Turillon did not open his restaurant as planned but welcomed customers via his takeaway meals.

Dozens of groups backed the campaign and urged restaurants and pubs to back the protest.

One person backing the protest wrote on social media: “I am waiting for the reopening of restaurants in order to re-establish essential social and human links.

“We do not catch Covid in restaurants any more than in public transport.”

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However, others were more cautious about the reopening of the hospitality industry saying now is not the time.

Alex Becuwe, head of two establishments in Montpellier, said: “Opening would mean an administrative closure, fines for customers presents, it is already hard to stay alive, it would be shooting yourself in the foot.”

President of the Union of Trades and Industries of the Hotel Industry, Jacques Mestre, warned controls would be reinforced.

He said: “I understand the movement, the profession is in agony!

“And the prefect told us that restaurants will not open before March 15.

“As of this morning, the prefecture is implementing reinforced controls, with fines and the suspension of aid in the event of illegality.”

Gabriel Attal, a government spokesperson, warned any restaurant which reopens will “not have access to the solidarity fund” for a month.

He said: “I think we are talking about a very small minority.

“I talk a lot with restaurant owners. It is difficult for them.

“They want to reopen, not only for financial reasons, since they receive aid that allows them to keep going.

“Restaurant owners who today say, ‘We’re going to reopen’ are still there because the government and the state have been helping them for months.

“We have decided that, for restaurant owners who do not respect the rules and decide to open even though they are closed, there will be financial sanctions.”

French minister Bruno le Marie faced criticism over threatening restaurant owners rather than helping them.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, member of the National Assembly, tweeted: “Le Maire and Darmanin are afraid of the health anger of our restaurant owners and prefer to threaten them than to help them.

“A shameful blackmail to solidarity funds!

“Send the police to arrest drug traffickers instead of killing our restaurant owners and fining the French!”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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