Restaurants say French Covid curfew will force closure

The government has not ordered restaurants to close, but owners say they will have to anyway.

15 October 2020
Empty restaurant chairs on a street in the evening. Restaurants say French Covid curfew will force closureRestaurant owners say the evening curfew is the government's way of forcing restaurants to close, without officially ordering them to do so
By Joanna York

A new curfew in major French cities is equivalent to forcing restaurants to close as it will destroy evening services, industry professionals have said. 

The curfew was announced by President Macron yesterday (October 15). It will restrict movement in nine major French cities between 21:00 and 6:00 from Saturday, October 17. 

The measures are expected to last at least one month, but could be extended until December 1.

Curfew is closure in ‘disguise’

In a joint statement, restaurant industry professionals said: “We must conclude that this decision is equivalent to closing our establishments. The new time constraints, which will destroy evening services, will have the pure and simple consequence of forcing our restaurants to close.”

The statement was signed by multiple restaurant and hospitality unions.

Previous Covid-19 restrictions were adapted to allow restaurants to stay open in maximum alert zones with extra health measures in place, even when bars and cafes were ordered to close. 

Allowances for restaurants were made as owners were vocal about the devastating effect the health crisis has had on their industry, and claimed that the hospitality sector was being disproportionately targeted by restrictions. 

Now, restaurateurs say the new curfew is the government’s way of forcing restaurants to close, without officially ordering them to do so.

 

Calls for financial support

Restaurateurs are now calling for increased financial support to help them to cover rent, insurance, and cash flow.

In his speech, President Macron confirmed there would be “measures and extra support” for industries affected by the curfew - including partial unemployment benefits, and solidarity funds.

A new list of professions impacted by health measures includes 75,000 new businesses that can claim up to €10,000 per month, minister for the economy Bruno Le Maire announced last week. This is in addition to the 150,000 businesses that were already eligible.

Mr Le Maire also said businesses in sectors affected by administrative restrictions would be eligible for partial unemployment benefits until the end of the year.

Long-term strategy for business needed

François Asselin, president of small and medium business association CPME, has called for long-term solutions for businesses in France, following the President’s speech yesterday. 

Mr Asselin stressed the need for clarification on whether businesses could have up to two years, instead of one, to start paying back Covid support loans from the state, which are called PGEs. In addition to such loans, he said businesses also have “rent and reimbursements for loans before Covid that will be difficult to pay off”. 

He anticipated that financial circumstances would be difficult for small and medium-sized businesses in France until at least next summer, and urged the government to allow small and medium debts be covered in one consolidated business loan. 

He said: “Otherwise many businesses will not make it.”

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