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French restaurateur wins Covid payment from insurer

A restaurateur in France has won a court case against insurance giant Axa, after the latter said it would not pay compensation for loss of earnings after the government imposed confinement.

The business tribunal in Paris has now ordered Axa to pay restaurateur Stéphane Manigold the equivalent of two and a half months’ compensation for loss of business earnings, for his restaurant Le Bistrot d'à côté Flaubert, in the 17th arrondissement in Paris.

Mr Manigold is the head of the Eclore group, which also includes La Maison Rostang, Substance, and Contraste.

Insurance company Axa had refused to pay out as it said that the government’s decision to close restaurants and cafés as part of confinement measures from March onwards did not qualify as an “administrative closure”.

Axa said that its contracts did not cover "loss of business when decisions are made by ministerial orders to prohibit general public access to certain establishments in order to combat the spread of a virus”.

But Mr Manigold denounced Axa’s statement as “explosive” and disagreed that the governmental decree on March 14, which closed all restaurants and bars to the public, “did not constitute an ‘administrative closure’ decision”.

The restaurateur added: “The court gave us two and half months on our gross margins. The judgement is final, but Axa will doubtlessly appeal. I want to pay back the State.”

He said: “Today is a big moment for all small and large bosses who are suffering, who gave me the energy to fight this. Axa went to great lengths to destroy us. We took on a multinational corporation, and we won.”

Axa has said that it will appeal.

Read more: Deconfinement in France: What is reopening when?

Read more: Possible June reopening for France's cafés


Hospitality precedent

The judgement had been much-awaited by the hospitality industry, as it could serve as a precedent for future cases.

Frank Delvau, co-president of hospitality union l'Union des Métiers de l'Hôtellerie et de la Restauration (Umih) told news service FranceInfo: “Some restaurateurs have had their own court cases, and this judgement is rather encouraging for the profession."

Yet the industry is still calling on the government to provide a solidarity fund to help support hospitality businesses that have lost money due to the crisis. It is hoped that this fund will be supported by insurance companies. 

The industry is estimated to have lost €7 billion in France alone.

Around 55,000 businesses - including cafés, hotels, restaurants and clubs - out of an estimated 94,000 - have already received a loan from the State.

But some high profile, Michelin-starred chefs, including Gérald Passédat, Marc Veyrat, Michel Saran and Gilles Goujon, have listed several grievances and demands for the industry in addition, including a demand that insurance companies must "imperatively cover the operating loss for up to 15-25%" and launch "a 'health catastrophe' guarantee fund".

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