Covid terraces in Paris get permanent summer status

Many Paris cafes and restaurants now claim more space on the street to maximise outdoor dining
Many Paris cafes and restaurants now claim more space on the street to maximise outdoor dining Lucas BARIOULET AFP/File
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Paris (AFP)

The makeshift café terraces that sprang up in Paris last year to serve Covid-wary patrons outdoors will become permanent summer fixtures of the capital, city hall announced Monday.

But they will have to shut down by 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) so that residents won't be kept awake by boisterous crowds, a problem that has exasperated neighbourhood groups.

The city turned over thousands of parking spaces last year to beleaguered restaurant and café owners who were no longer allowed to serve indoors as the pandemic raged.

Outdoor drinking and dining resumed across France last month as France emerged from its third wave of coronavirus cases, a huge relief for restaurants and bars closed since last October.

But while some owners invested in high-quality structures, others did little more than nail together wooden shipping pallets that have not weathered well.

That has fed complaints that Mayor Anne Hidalgo has allowed Paris to become ugly under her watch, evinced by the recent social media surge of grim Paris photos tagged with #saccageparis (trashed Paris).

Terraces will have to remain without closed walls and plants and other greenery will be encouraged, with an annual contest for the most attractive designs.

"Roofs, tarps, reception tents, wooden pallets and advertising will be prohibited," the deputy mayor in charge of commerce, Olivia Polski, told AFP.

Outdoor seating can also be extended on adjacent squares and sidewalks, and also in front of neighbouring businesses if they give approval.

No heating or music systems will be allowed, and Polski said the city would step up deployments of specially developed "Meduse" microphones for pinpointing the sources of noise pollution across the city.

On Wednesday, restaurants and cafés will be allowed to start serving indoors and the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 11:00 pm, which is expected to further swell the summer sidewalk crowds.