Bars and restaurants reopen in France today, after more than six months of lockdown. But for now they are only allowed to serve food and drink outdoors on terraces, rooftop gardens and such.
It is, of course, not the first time that bars and restaurants reopen in France since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic. But relaxation of the rules in October 2020, after the first lockdown, was swiftly followed by a second lockdown and new closure rules.
The French president Emmanuel Macron and other politicians were among the first to enjoy the new freedom to sip coffee at breakfast. Health Minister Oliver Véran said that he expected the rules on wearing face masks outdoors to be relaxed “soon” too. On social media people were posting selfies with their first open air coffee since the lockdown, using the hashtag #tousenterrasse (everyone on terrace).
Bars and restaurants in towns and villages around Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois were bracing themselves for big demand from customers. Reservations are often required, with many establishments reporting enthusiastic bookings. Restaurants in Narbonne and other nearby towns were already fully booked for lunch and dinner. The curfew changed today as well, from 7pm to 9pm.
France is relaxing the lockdown in four stages. If everything goes to plan, the full reopening of the economy is expected to take place on 30 June. The EU today also announced that it welcomes fully vaccinated travellers.
The UK, however, still has France marked as an ‘amber’ country. This means that the British government strongly advises against a tip to France for now. New cases and hospitalisations across France continue to fall sharply, however, and the vaccination programme hit its target of 20 million first vaccinations a few days early last week.
Not everyone will return to work in hospitality, now that bars and restaurants reopen in France. French media report that 18% of staff – around 110,000 workers nationally – left the industry permanently during the lockdown, citing poor working conditions and wages. This may mean that bars and restaurants struggle in the short term to cope with penned-up demand.
On the other hand, bars and restaurants are still only allowed to operate at a reduced capacity. But much of it is not yet clear, since employers often lost contact with their furloughed staff during the lockdown.