Outdoor restaurant terrace heaters are now officially banned in France, in a move that will save an estimated half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
From yesterday (March 31), polluting outdoor heaters can no longer be used to heat outdoor eating or drinking areas.
The ban had been due to come into force in April last year, but the measure was pushed to this year due to the Covid crisis.
The decision is part of the “Climat et Résilience” law, and has been taken for environmental reasons; the ban is expected to save 500,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of emissions of 300,000 cars.
The French NGO energy think-tank négaWatt found that a single restaurant terrace heated with patio heaters can use as much as “50,400 kWh per winter” and “emit 13.7 tonnes of carbon gas”, which is “the equivalent of a new car driving for 122,000km, or three times around the world”.
It comes after Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine) became the first city to ban the heaters in 2019, even before they were outlawed nationally.
No heaters, fewer customers?
Yet, some restaurateurs fear that the change will put off some patrons, and independent hospitality group union GNI (Groupement national des indépendants) has warned that patios and terraces are extremely important sources of revenue to restaurants and cafes.
It has said: “Terraces represent 30% of business in the hospitality and restaurant sector. A large part of this 30% comes thanks to heating, and the comfort it brings to customers.”
Younes Dolci, a restaurant owner in Rennes, told FranceInfo: “There will definitely be consequences. We just have to deal with it, and I think we’ll find alternatives, but we will lose customers, that’s for sure.”
Romain Deconquand, a brasserie manager in Paris with a significant 40m2 of outside, heated terrace space, said before the ban that he would not be in favour of the move.
He said: “[Without outdoor heaters] I would lose a room. If I didn’t have [this space], I would have half the seats. Half the numbers. Half the returns. Half the staff.”
Yet, it comes as a Normandy restaurateur father-and-son team created a heated bench business, Hotbench, in a bid to offer an alternative to the now-banned heaters.
Philippe Debray and his son Guillaume, co-owners of a brasserie in Pont-Audemer (Eure), took inspiration from heated seats in cars, and built their own eco-friendly heated benches for their outdoor terrace tables.
The benches’ energy use is far lower than that of traditional patio heaters, Philippe Debray said.
He said: “A two-metre-long bench takes 15 minutes to heat up, and uses 700 watts” per day, compared to the 2000-3,500 watts that patio heaters can use.
While the duo admits that their solution is not 100% eco-friendly, they say that it is a more acceptable option, and enables them (and other restaurateurs) to open their terrace tables even in lower temperatures.