June 15, 2020 / 3:09 PM / 2 months ago

Paris restaurants reopen fully, still wary about post-lockdown

The Chef, Alain Fontaine, wearing a protective face mask, talks to customers during the reopening of the hall of the Mesturet restaurant amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris, France June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris restaurants reopened indoor dining halls on Monday as the government relaxed one of the last major coronavirus constraints, but with virtually no tourists and many French people still working from home, the mood was cautious.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that restaurants and cafes in Paris could open fully from Monday, the same day France lifted border restrictions for European Union travellers, bringing much needed relief for the hospitality industry.

Restaurants outside the Paris region were allowed to open again from June 2, but in the city, where the virus struck hardest, venues could only serve customers on outdoor terraces.

At Le Mesturet, a bistrot between the Opera Garnier and the Louvre museum, owner Alain Fontaine said it was a relief to reopen, but he warned that without tourists and with many people still teleworking, restaurants should not operate at full capacity in order to avoid the risk of bankruptcies.

“I am sure that by end of summer everybody will have reopened, but it may take six months to a year before business fully recovers to like it was before,” he said.

Customers were happy to visit old haunts again.

“With indoor dining possible, I feel like eating out again. A terrace is not the same thing,” said businessman Nicolas.

Jean-Paul Thomas, a software developer, was also happy to reconnect with good Gallic traditions.

“The midday meal is a moment of relaxation. Eating take-out food at your desk in 10 minutes feels much less good than taking a proper one-hour break for lunch,” he said.

Reporting by Antony Paone,; Writing by Geert De Clercq and Ed Osmond

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