Rural cafes in France have given a helping hand to reopen



A village cafe restoration project is slowly restarting business after Covid restrictions put many of its plans on hold.

the 1,000 coffees program, in collaboration with city councils and other local authorities, had opened about 20 cafes before the pandemic.

A few of them remained open during closings and curfews, offering “multiple services” such as take-out, shopping or bread sales, but many were forced to close.

The association offers people wishing to occupy the premises of a café – generally made available by the municipality at a low rent – a guaranteed minimum wage plus a bonus based on performance, and assistance in taking charge. charge of the estimated € 20,000 for installation costs for a café. .

It targets small towns with 3,500 inhabitants or less.

One of the first establishments to open was a café-bar / restaurant in La Foye-Monjault, a village of 810 inhabitants not far from Niort in Deux-Sèvres, in western France.

Mayor Dany Michaud declared The connection that the commune was determined to keep it open.

“We had a cafe here for many years, but when the owners retired they couldn’t find anyone to take it over,” she said.

“It was a huge loss for the social life of the whole village, so we got together and decided that the old party hall in the center of the village, which was historically a market, was to regain its original commercial use, and we have converted it into a bar and restaurant.

“Unfortunately, after three years the managers decided they wanted a lifestyle change and we had a hard time finding someone new to take care of it – until we heard about it. about the 1,000 cafes project and the help they could offer.

“By chance, when signing with them, we learned that a young cook, with his partner, wanted to set up on his own, and with the support of 1,000 coffees was able to do it.

The association helped buy plates and other equipment for the restaurant, called La Rabelais.

La Rabelais café bar / restaurant in La Foye-Monjault open thanks to the program

“For the village, because we already had the premises, the amount was not very high, but the help of the association was important for the couple who ran the bar and helped them to settle down”, specifies Ms. Michaud.

During the lockdown, the restaurant continued to function as best it could, offering take-out food and drink, which the villagers still appreciated, the mayor said.

Clémence Richard, from the 1,000 coffees program, said another dozen cafes he supported were due to open this year, most in September after the holidays.

“It is important to have places of conviviality in the villages as well as to have the practical aspects of a grocery store and other services, which many municipalities have lost,” she said.

“We want to show that it is possible to bring these places back. “

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