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Bookshop café in France: why was I not asked for Covid health pass?

A customer at one Paris bookshop is angry that she did not have to show her health pass in the cafe area. The manager of the bookshop explains his position

Health passes are required to enter cafés, but not bookshops. What about cafés in bookshops? Pic: JHK2303 / Shutterstock

Reader question: I went recently to the bookshop Smith&Son Paris and I was not asked for my health pass (pass sanitaire) when I went to the café section. Is it not required?

One Connexion reader highlighted her concern that she was not asked by staff at Smith&Son Paris (formerly WHSmith Paris) for her health pass when she went to the café area in the bookshop. 

This appears to be somewhat of a legal grey area as a bookshop with a café does not fall under the same legal classification as an actual café or other catering businesses. 

The Connexion asked Patrick Moynot, the managing director at Smith&Son Paris, to explain the situation. 

He said that the establishment, including the cafe and the staff, is subject to rules that apply to bookshops and not to commercial catering businesses. 

A health pass is not legally required to enter bookshops.

However, he said that following concerns raised by The Connexion reader, and with the pandemic evolving with the new Omicron variant, he and his staff were now looking to implement health pass rules for the cafe area. 

“It is complicated,” he said. “If we had previously asked everyone to see their health pass, we would have had a lot of people who would have cried scandal.”

He said that bookshops do not have access to the same government aid as restaurants, and so imposing a controversial measure could have had negative consequences.

“We have been very prudent in how we have tried to manage these things, and as the situation is changing and as we have received the [feedback from the customer], that has made us reflect on our position,” he said. 

“We are trying to be pragmatic in terms of what is best depending on the situation.”

Smith&Son’s interpretation of the rule was against advice set out by French bookshop union the Syndicat de la librairie française, which states that:

“The presentation of the health pass is compulsory for the ‘cafe’ and/or ‘catering’ section [of bookshops]. It is possible to ask for the pass when a customer orders a drink. 

“Customers who only visit the venue to buy books do not have to show their health pass.”

Mr Moynot said this is the union’s interpretation of the rules and is not officially law.

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