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Paris cafes, restaurants partially reopen post-lockdown

PARIS (AP) — Parisians who have been cooped up for months with takeout food and coffee will be able to savor their steaks tartare in the fresh air and cobbled streets of the City of Light once more — albeit in smaller numbers..

The city famed for its vibrant cafe society and coffee culture will get some of its pre-lockdown life back as cafes and restaurants partially reopen Tuesday.

The Paris City Hall authorized the opening of outside seating areas, but indoors will remain closed to customers until at least June 22.

Dampening the mood of new freedom, social distancing of one meter (about three feet) between tables will be obligatory and drastically reduce the numbers. For the city well-known for its tiny chairs and fashionably-small 50-centimeter-wide (20-inch-wide) round tables that often touch, this will lower capacity in some outside areas by over half.

To help matters, the normally space-restricting Paris City Hall is now allowing restaurateurs to be expansive — and have issued an authorization for them to enlarge their outside areas, or create one, without the normal legal red tape until Sept. 30. To do this, they will have to sign a charter promising to respect “pedestrian traffic, the cleanliness of the premises, safety or even noise reduction vis-à-vis residents.” But some restaurateurs have said that they haven’t received the charter, and the details remain fuzzy and confusing.

Xavier Denamur, who owns five of the Marais’ most popular cafes and bistros with around 70 employees, was mixed in his reaction about the reopening.

“It’s amazing that we’re finally opening up, but the outside area is just a fraction of the inside space,” he said. In one of his restaurant-bars La Belle Hortense, he said that out of a normal capacity of 126 people, there will just be room for eight.

“It’s a start,” he conceded, but “two in three outside tables had to be removed.”

Customers will have the freedom to eat without wearing a mask, but as soon as nature calls they will be required to don one to go to the inside bathroom.

Some have complained that the government’s speedy announcement of the plans, just five days before reopening, were also problematic.

“It was confirmed on Thursday, and with the holiday weekend it’s been almost impossible to order all the necessary products from Rungis,” Denamur said, referring to the Paris region’s principal food market.

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Thomas Adamson reported from Leeds, England.

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