My Paris Stories
My Concierge Told Me
My Paris Stories

The Bistro dies

Here are the figures: In the 60s, there were 200 000 Cafés and Bistros in France. There are only 30 000 left today. That’s what you call a decline.

The other day, a colloquium was held at the French Senat which dealt with nothing less than the future of small village-cafés and the famous bistrot du coin, the small Bistro at the corner of the street where Parisians in an early morning rush drink a small café at the zinc, their name for the bar. I can sense your surprise: Yes, it’s true. France is the only country in the world where men in dark suits and ties with worried faces discuss for several days whether the decline of alcoholism or the fact that you are not allowed to smoke in public places anymore could be responsible for he decline of bistros. But that’s the way it is: Remember, France is different. In this country it’s just a part of the culture. The truth is that a coffee or a glass of wine are only used as a pretext for communication. People used to sit and talk for hours, drinking only a thimbleful of expresso. That’s why the figures are alarming: Last year, 2000 places closed in Paris and its suburbs. The others are trying to “modernise”. That means they are paying a lot for changing the decor. They all end up looking redone by the same designers or their imitators. And with the new décor, they all raise their prices. So in the end it’s question of clientele. The poor driven away, the bobos are welcomed.

I have nostalgic memories of “Le trou de Bretagne”. It was a tiny, shabby place where you could literally sink into oblivion. A hole, as the name says. I remember Monsieur Robert, an old man, doing the shopping in the morning on his shaky legs in order to serve a modest but decent lunch for just a few francs to his regulars. I remember when he died. And I remember when Omar, the rich owner of a nearby Couscous-Restaurant, bought the place to save it, so it could go on as it used to be. He hired Daniel, a guy with only a few teeth left in his mouth who used to give me a “bise” on the cheeks every time I walked by. I didn’t like his kisses, but I liked Daniel.

Omar must have been, like me, a nostalgic person. But it didn’t last very long. One day he sold. Must have been a nice price. Very nice. Now it’s a fancy place for fancy people. Tiny and trendy. As I told you, I didn’t appreciated Daniels moist kisses. But still, I miss him. Some times I seem him strolling around, looking like his former clients, a bit like a clochard.Photos:
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