“We’re not virus police, French cafes say of new COVID pass”!
French restaurant owners and workers are concerned that new mandatory COVID passes will turn them into virus police instead of purveyors of culinary pleasures.
Starting next month, all diners in France must show a pass proving they’re fully vaccinated, or recently tested negative or recovered from the virus. For restaurants – seen as the lifeblood of France — the new rule presents yet another headache after a punishing pandemic.
“Our job used to be to make sure that our guests had a great time while they were with us. Now, we spend our time reprimanding them. We weren’t trained for this,” said Louis le Mahieu, manager of the Parisian restaurant Les Bancs Publics.
Les Bancs Publics sits on a street corner on the canal that wends through northeast Paris, a neighborhood popular with young people who gather in its many cafes or on the banks of the canal, drinking and listening to music. Vivid street art livens the neighborhood, and there is a pop-up vaccination booking space nearby, next to Paris Plage, the city’s yearly summer urban beach project.
Like other restaurants in the bustling area, Le Bancs Publics is already struggling to respect France’s oft-changing virus rules. It’s one of hundreds of Paris venues shut down for not respecting limits on visitors since French restaurants reopened in May for the first time in nearly seven months. So its brightly colored metal shutters are drawn and no diners are in sight.
Cafe and bar owners worry they’ll face more such trouble when the COVID pass becomes obligatory.
A draft law preparing the COVID pass requirement for restaurants, shopping malls, hospitals, trains and planes foresees fines of 45,000 euros ($53,250) for violations – which could be fatal to small businesses that are already struggling economically after pandemic losses.
For Gauthier Max, owner of nearby Mama Kin, restaurants and bars are no longer places of leisure but have become spaces of constraints and restrictions. “We’ve effectively become policemen,” he said.
A diverse crowd of customers would usually be standing outside Mama Kin with drinks and cigarettes and socializing inside, but it too was shut down temporarily this week for virus violations.
A collective of angry restaurant owners is scheduled to meet Thursday with the area police chief to discuss the virus challenges and try to find solutions, Max said.
Unions have pushed back at the new pass requirement, as did protesters at demonstrations in Paris and other cities around France on Wednesday. Tourists are also confused about how they can get the COVID passes before they come into effect next month; the government promises answers soon.