November 23, 2008

Why have the French abandoned their cafés?

The NYT has a longish article about how business has plummeted in cafés in France. Go ahead, read it, and see how long it takes you to figure out what's causing the problem. There are many colorful sentences about how sad it is that the cafés are deserted. But why? Some café owner is quoted saying "People fear the future, and now with the banking crisis, they are even more afraid," and there a vague reference to "changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate," but how did that explain the sudden "free fall" in business?

Finally, I got to this:
[O]n Jan. 1 of this year... France extended its smoking ban to bars, cafes and restaurants....

Before, clients would go inside a cafe, have a coffee, a cigarette and another coffee. But now they go out to smoke, and sometimes they do not come back....
And then there's this:
[T]hose who drink are newly wary of the local police, who now hover near the bar, especially at night, to test the sobriety of drivers....
So, there it is. Your café culture is inconsistent with the safety world you have chosen.


Meanwhile, politicians in Madison, Wisconsin want to impose a smoking ban on the whole state, and local media blame "the powerful Tavern League lobby" for opposing it. Perhaps the NYT could do a sympathetic article on the traditional tavern culture of the charming state of Wisconsin. Oh, wait, they already did that article, last week. It was about what a bunch of drunkards Wisconsinites are and how the culture needed to be destroyed.

Relocate to France, and it all looks so different.


Beth said...

First France, now Wisconsin. Can Louisiana be far behind?

Freeman Hunt said...

Thanks to Huckabee, Arkansas already has a statewide smoking ban that extends to bars and restaurants.

Meade said...

Reading the candy-assed New York Times so you don't have to

bearbee said...

But in fact Mrs. Perrey, 37, says she feels trapped. “The crisis started progressively, but now it moves very fast,” she said. “I worry it will last a long time.”

The progressives strike again.

Kyle said...

"Your café culture is inconsistent with the safety world you have chosen."

That's actually an incredibly insightful observation. People love to complain that the nanny state is something being imposed on them by an unacacountable bureaucratic machine, against their wills. But people have chosen and continue to choose this - if only by their inaction, or by the belief in their own powerlessness in the face of that bureaucratic machine. This can all just go away at any time enough people choose to make it go away.

TMink said...

I smoked two cigars in a bar last night. My partner in crime brought a very nice Padron that was absolutely a treat. Of course, not to some of the people who tried to sit next to us!

Some would only last 3 minutes before they started to wrinkle their nose. We would bet on how long they would last. I usually won, because I based my time estimates on their age. The younger the patron, the less time they would hang.

Later in the evening, a charming and slightly tipsy woman came over and joined us to enjoy the aroma of the cigars. We told her about our bets and she positively cackled! The next guy tp test the air, an effete and slender youngish twentysomething, actually pulled up his collar to cover his nose the monent he sat down. He immediately and irritably asked us to put out the cigars! Ms. Charming almost spit out her beer over that one!

We kindly informed him that there was a no smoking section out in the drafty entrance, and offered him a cigar. He left with his beautiful but nonplussed date in tow. Dump him honey, real men can deal with some smoke.

2 years ago I would never have enjoyed blowing smoke like that, but two years ago there were plenty of places that I could enjoy a cigar. Now that there are so few, I feel more possesive and frankly onery.


Anonymous said...

Counterpoint: bars in Chicago are wonderful without smoking.

It's not like society cannot have this both ways. Idea off the top of my head: the city can lease a limited number of smoking medallions that must be granted back to the city in five years, to be sold again.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Big Brother is watching you!!

Several restaurant/bars in our area have closed down due to the police sitting outside and timing how long your car has been in front of the establishment. We are in a rural area and the best resort to eat was about a 30 minute drive away. By the time you had dinner and possibly two glasses of wine, you are over the .08 blood alcohol limit. So your choices are:

To have a designated person who doesn't get to have any wine or cocktails.

Don't have any libations with your meal, which kind of defeats the purpose of fine dining.

Stay at the resort for the evening. Pretty expensive dinner at $200 a night for a room, although slightly less than a DUI

Take your chances, drive the back roads and hope the cops don't bust you.

Or...the most likely.. Stay home and have friends over to your house.

Smoking ban in restaurants? I'm for that because it does interfere with the meal for those like myself who have never smoked. In a bar? Smoke'em up. No one forces you to go to a bar which isn't a very healthy environment in the first place. Live with it.

Bissage said...

Banning booze and smoking is a good start but we can do better.

The government should force us all to wear seizure helmets.

This little cutie doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Sure, those who work in the hair care business are going to take a hit but so what?

They’re not even unionized.

Meade said...

Like an anti-seizure helmet for news consumers

I'm Full of Soup said...


That idea gets my vote heh!

I further recommend all Americans be forced to use wheelchairs at all times to reduce the chance of hip fractures!

And gas masks- don't forget to use your gas mask when Trey is around!

William said...

I gave up cigarettes before I gave up liquor. I could handle a beer at home without any great spasms of desire, but bars were a different thing. After a couple of drinks, Scotch eggs look palatable and fleshy women look sensual. Put a nicotine addict in such an environment and breathe some fresh, fragrant smoke in his face, and his resolve is no more. If you wish to give up cigarettes, you must also give up the occasion of cigarettes. I gave up cigarettes permanently when society gave them up. The demise of smoking in restaurants and bars has helped me stay nicotine clean these many years....There is something to be said for many vices, but I cannot think of a single good memory associated with smoking.

Beth said...

Trey, I understand your possessiveness over the smoking space. I felt the same way about the non-smoking space back when that was skimpy. I'm all for some space for both. I know when I go in a bar to expect smoke - the only argument against smoking in bars that sways me is that bar staff get a lungful of the stuff every shift. So, let's see some good old innovation work on an excellent ventilation solution.

We were reminiscing about the pre-nanny world the other day, remembering the two ways we rode in the car as a child: standing up on the front seat between our parents, and in the "sweet spot" - that big flat area atop the back seats, under the back window. I lay there on so many night drives, just looking at the stars, listening to the radio and the murmur of the grownups up front.

the wolf said...

Counterpoint: bars in Chicago are wonderful without smoking.

That's not really a counterpoint. I know several bar owners that complain about the downturn in business since the ban.

If this is a good idea, why didn't some enterprising souls open non-smoking bars themselves? It would have been perfectly legal to do so. If that's what everyone wanted, people would have flocked to these places. Right? We wouldn't need the nanny government tell us what to do.

Beth said...

William, fleshy women ARE sensual. Are you sure drinking was a problem for you?

Anonymous said...

Wolf -- I'm tremendously torn on the issue.

Beth -- Fleshy women are even more sensual when you are really drunk.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Damn Donovan McNabb looks like crap today. Would the bar drinkers in Chicago like to see him as QB for Da Bears next year? Cause I think they can have him - we Iggles fans don't want him anymore.

fivewheels said...

And just because one person can't think of anything positive about smoking doesn't mean that positives don't exist. The problem is the desire on the part of many to make all their preferences law.

This leads to absurdities in Illinois such as the banning of smoking (pipes) at the Chicago Pipe Show.

Anonymous said...

...or the banning of touching the women at strip clubs.

PatCA said...

I did notice when I was in Paris recently that there were more people walking around with their sandwiches than sitting in cafes, and the lunchtime wine drinking was minimal (except by tourists). But Parisians are very fast paced business people these days--Paris is more like NYC than Florence. Cafes are filled with tourists or Parisians having business meetings.

Just like in California, restaurants will feel the effect of the no smoking, no drinking rule. I know people who have had two drinks and then been nabbed and had their lives severely impacted. Since I am legally drunk after 2 glasses of wine, I only drink and dine when there is a designated driver. You can get a table nearly anywhere these days.

Soon the same will happen in Paris. Yes, businesses and some of the charm will be destroyed, but they will all be, safer. And then they will start demanding two seats on airplanes because they are bored and fat.

kjbe said...

It was about what a bunch of drunkards Wisconsinites are and how the culture needed to be destroyed.

A little hyperbole? True that this state does have a drinking problem. It's quite real. Some education on what this costs all of us, might open some eyes and change some behaviors. Would that be so bad?

About the statewide smoking ban - I always go back to the bartenders and waitstaff that are breathing that all in night after night. Ventilation requirements might work, but I remember the stink everyone made about making things handicap acceptable - now everyone uses the curb cutouts.

And as for not having a couple glasses of wine with my fine dining - it's not the end of the world. Dinner's either cheaper or I can have that dessert I've had my eye on. And btw, there are plenty of folks out there who can't stop at 2. They're the real issue, anyway.

PatCA said...

But laura, if your driver's license is revoked and you pay thousands in fines and legal fees for 2 glasses of wine, then you are the real issue too.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

And btw, there are plenty of folks out there who can't stop at 2. They're the real issue, anyway.

There are a lot of people out there who do lots of unsavory things, beat their wives and children, swear out loud in public, let their ass cracks and underwear show with low slung pants, eat too much and get fat.

Just because SOME people have no control, manners or morals is no excuse for punishing the rest of us and ruining businesses.

If you don't like a smokey bar. Don't go into one or don't work at one. The waitress and bar tenders aren't slaves, you know. There are other jobs. Jobs I might add that also have their own usavory side. Wanna be a plumber installing a new lift pump in a septic tank?

If you don't like to drink a glass of wine with dinner or have an after dinner cordial, fine....don't.

If I don't like to food in a restaurant or the atmosphere of smoking, then I won't patronize the place and I'll tell the owner just why.

However,it should be up the owner of the business to decide how he wants to operate. I'm sure if a restaurant or a bar advertized as non-smoking they would have plenty of people who would seek them out.

Freeman Hunt said...

I agree with DBQ. Before the smoking ban in my state, I just avoided restaurants that weren't well ventilated. Were I a waitress, I wouldn't have worked at those places either. I don't drink, therefore I don't drink.

I don't have any desire to force everyone else to quit smoking and drinking just to suit my preferences. If I did have that desire, I'd be properly ashamed of myself.

TMink said...

Beth wrote: " I felt the same way about the non-smoking space back when that was skimpy."
I TOTALLY understand! There are a few cigar smoking venues left in Nashville, they are precious!

Hey, we are on our way down to the NOLA area for Thanksgiving! I am in charge of the vegetables and side items, including some oyster dressing. Yum!


fivewheels said...

The health risks of second-hand smoke are not nearly as clear-cut as advocates would like you to believe. And I say this as someone who has more or less never smoked in public (because I'm not a cigarette smoker) and is not inconvenienced by smoking bans, really. It's more pleasant to enjoy your tobacco in a calm environment at home anyway.

Point being, when I worked in a fish market, I didn't complain about the smell.

And I suspect that it's not actual employees of bars (whose livelihoods and tips are negatively affected by smoking bans) who are using the employee argument to back the bans. Those who purport to be "fighting" on their behalf are really doing so for their own reasons, most likely. As usual for those who wish to speak for others.

kjbe said...

In general, I don't patronize bars with smoking. You're right it's my choice - and actually it's not that hot-button an issue with me, mostly because I don't smoke. The second hand smoke for workers, seems to me to be something to pay attention to.

With the drinking and driving comments, I was relating that to the State of WI, where there is plenty of room for some modified behaviors. I'm not talking about prohibition, but reasonable measures can be taken.

Trooper York said...

I have written many a tirade about smoking in bars and can tell you that the ban of smoking in New York City caused business to drop about 25% in many of the small gin mills in the outer boroughs causing at least six that I know of to close or change hands several times. The proper and fair answer is to sell an eating and drinking establishment a smoking license just like they sell a liqueur license. Charge ten grand and if the venue thinks it is worth that price to have smoking they will buy it and the city or state will have a nice new source of revenue. If non smoking is as overwhelmingly desirable as the filthy communist yuppie scumbags claim, then there will be numerous non smoking restaurant and bars. If smoking allows marginal business to survive than perhaps it might be good to give both the business owners and customers a choice. Of course your liberal yuppie scumbags will not give the plebian Joe six-pack a choice to smoke or drink since choice can only refer to yanking babies out of their mother’s wombs.

Happy holidays.

Trooper York said...

Trey, if you ever make it to Brooklyn you can come over and sit in my yard and light up one of my prized stogies as we enjoy some wine and grapes and figs and hard provolone. Cigars are one of the true pleasures in life and people who can not appreciate a fine cheroot are just sad bitter white wine spritzer sipping pussies.

blake said...

I don't smoke or drink.

When I read crap like this, I want to start.

I suppose that's not the desired reaction.

Beth said...

Have a wonderful, safe trip, Trey. I'm buying our oyster dressing from Langenstein's (It's a tradition, not a sacrilege!) but we're responsible for making dirty rice and oyster stew, along with some veggies.