Covid-19: which challenges are cocktail bars in France facing?
In France, it was announced that from June 2, bars could reopen. At the time of closure between March and April, some of them were just serving to go, but now, bars will close for two weeks starting October 6th. How do the bars cope with this?
*NB: Originally published on May 25th 2020. Updated October 5th 2020.
On the weekend of 13 March, bars in France had to take the drastic decision to close their doors. The covid-19 coronavirus pandemic shook the cocktail bar scene. During this process of adaptation and waiting for the big announcement of the definitive reopening, bars in France, as in many countries, had to reinvent themselves. In order to survive this period, different working methods emerged: take-away cocktails, cocktails at home. Some, however, did not even have the chance.
Today, bars face very particular problems. “In our sector, it’s clear that cocktail bars are the most affected and who will feel the consequences the longest.” Said Olivier Bon, the co-founder of the Experimental Cocktail Group, the first bar nouvelle vague in Paris known as L’Experimental.
And it wasn’t just from the coronavirus pandemic that bars began to be affected. Between December and January, protests shook the entire country making part of the winter season difficult. Now, in the summer, a substantial season for bars is uncertain because of the new way of life imposed by covid-19. And more so for the bars that do not have a terrace. “Usually we can count on international tourists to compensate, but obviously that won’t be the case.”
For her part, Margot Lecarpentier, the owner of the Combat bar in Paris, compares bars and restaurants. “For restaurants, food is twice a day. For us, it will be difficult to offer an aperitif at midday and in the evening.” Lecarpentier declares to Le Figaro.
Cocktails to go
Like many others, Lecarpentier is an example of an employee who has not been able to benefit from partial unemployment. Nor of the solidarity funds. Two measures that the French government offered to maintain the income of the salaried workers. “The customs in France are not the same as in the USA or in London. The sale of alcohol to go is not something that has been imposed.”
Anyway, many other practices will have to be assimilated to restore profitability. These include amortizing both logistical and operational costs, just to reduce the price of a cocktail, for example. And as easy as it may seem to make cocktails to go, they involve other things. While it is a practice that on the one hand ends up benefiting the environment, other costs arise from the use of vacuum-packed plastic bags, a practice that bars that respect the short circuit and responsible consumption refuse to apply.
Certain bars, such as Mabel, have managed to apply take-away cocktails. Not without first reducing the price of their cocktails, from 14-15 euros to 10 euros. In addition, they allied themselves with the Jean Hwang Carrant homemade cookie shop by offering a cookie and cocktail combo. Then, the bar proposed single cocktail bottles for six people at 45 euros. The results have been positive and show a week/ weekend rhythm with rising orders on Fridays and Saturdays. Between 30 and 40 orders of various products. The only employee of this bar benefits from the partial unemployment and the idea remains to keep the name of the bar alive to its customers.
From a moment ago other measures to receive customers in times of covid-19, in bars and restaurants, are the plastic walls, both inside and outside. This modality implies a crowd of people in front of the establishment with an office window. “There is no notion of profitability in it, but it seems to us that it is almost a service that we must ensure if we want life to return to a minimum.” Says Nicolas Munoz of the Divine and Bisou bars. In this way customers can taste – or order to go – in front of the bar between 5pm and 8pm. A way of operating that could work if cars are prevented from passing on certain streets. But for Nicolas Munoz, and many bar owners, there is no future with “Plexiglas everywhere, masks, disinfecting between customers, limiting the stalls to one person per square metre”.
Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.