More than 58,000 people have signed a petition in defence of the owners of a Breton crêperie which is being taken to court by a neighbour over the smell of its crêpes and other alleged disturbances.
The owners of the Crêperie du Pêcheur in Cap d'Erquy (Côtes-d'Armor), Marlène Dupont and Alex Polge, will appear before a local judge on February 16, at the courts in nearby Saint-Brieuc.
The complaints of odour and noise disturbance are from a neighbour who moved from Paris to live near the restaurant and first bought his property as a second home before the crêperie existed.
“We have done everything we could possibly do to placate the neighbour but the more we do, the more they demand,” Mr Polge told The Connexion.
“It will take at least ten years to pay for the work we have had to do. At first we laughed about it but we are not laughing now.”
The court action is going ahead despite an attempt at conciliation with the local mayor, who decreed the crêperie’s operation to be fine last August, at the height of the tourist season when he visited at the busiest time of day.
A picture of the crêperie. Photo credit: supplied by Marlène Dupont and Alex Polge
€170,000 of work carried out
The crêperie owners say they have already moved the kitchen nine metres further away from the neighbour’s nearest window and had built a double-glazed extension to insulate against customer noise. They also say they have removed the children’s area to stop the “shrieks of joy” that neighbour Patrick Boquet said were disturbing him.
“We also did away with a seven-space car park because they said it was too close to their home. There have been no other complaints in the neighbourhood, other neighbours have been supportive,” said Mr Polge.
Mrs Dupont said the costs of the work are in the region of €170,000.
History of complaints
The restaurant originally opened in 2009. The Boquets bought their property in 2000, as a holiday home and first made complaints to the mairie once the restaurant was up and running. The mayor came down on the side of the restaurant and the complaining stopped until Miss Dupont and Mr Polge took over in 2020.
"We were forced to shut five weeks after opening because of Covid. We were already struggling following the lockdown but we held on.”, said Mr Polge.
After receiving complaints from their neighbour about “smoke emanating from the kitchen and the smell of fried food”, and of the noise coming from the crêperie, Mrs Dupont and Mr Polge discovered the history of conflict with the former owner.
Mayor backs the restaurant
Then in 2021 they received a letter outlining more complaints. Mr Polge states: "we couldn't believe it. We did not respond.”
Then after more complaints, an appointment was made with a mediator in November 2022. Mr Polge said: "We made all of the changes I mentioned, spent all that money. Then Mr Boquet requested that the restaurant close at 19:00 instead of 23:00.”
On January 10, a bailiff visited to give a summons for the couple to come to court. The couple’s frustration led them to write an online petition outlining the costs of the work and inform locals of the charges levelled against them.
‘I am the victim,’ says complainant
Last week Mr Boquet told the TV news channel TF1 that since word of the case had spread he had suffered: "I have been insulted on social networks. I am the victim, and they make me a culprit.”
Mr Boquet had his house built in 1999 and had used it as a holiday home, before making it his primary residence in 2016. "At the time, there was no restaurant, but a residential house occupied by a couple. After his divorce, the husband decided to make a crêperie".
Mr Boquet said he would "never have settled next to a restaurant", and despite efforts of the new owners, “the nuisance is still there…I have no other solution".
Experts to be called in
The lawyer of Mr Boquet, Maître Sanson, specifies that this court appointment will not bring an immediate answer to the conflict. "It is a summons for expert advice. We ask the president of the judicial court to appoint an expert who will carry out tests, including acoustic and olfactory measurements. No decision will be taken on this occasion, it will still be necessary to wait several months."
Mr Boquet has not replied to our requests for comment. Mrs Dupont and Mr Polge claim he has removed his name from his letterbox.
Noise and smell complaints are not unusual in France; in 2019 a legal dispute ensued over the morning calls of a rooster on the Island of Oleron, and noises and smells of the countryside have often been the object of discord between locals and incomers from the city.
However, in 2021 Parliament unanimously adopted a law "protecting the sensory heritage of the countryside".