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The smoky Paris cafe is dead: Long live the smoky street

June 13th, 2009 · 14 Comments

The last time I was in Paris five years ago, people were still allowed to smoke in bars and restaurants here. That made for quite an experience (and a lot of clothes-washing to get the smell out) for all of us.

But this time, quelle difference. And it’s added even more flavour to the Paris nightlife because now, small herds of people gather on the sidewalks and streets outside every bar and restaurant that doesn’t have outdoor tables so they can smoke. You can look down any street and see where the bar is and how popular it is by how dense the roadway cluster is. We passed by one, the Brasserie La Perle on Rue Vielle du Temple, last night that must have had 60 people partying on the sidewalks on two sides.

This being France and civilised, people are allowed to take their drinks out on the sidewalk. (Don’t think they’ll be trying this on Granville anytime soon.) The cars parked partially on the sidewalk make for handy drinks tables and so it all works out. Bar owners must be ecstatic, because it seems to, in some cases, double their capacity.

The end result is to give the streets even more of a festival-like air than they already had. So when the naked man, wearing only shoes and a hat, walked by last night as we were having a drink at a sidewalk table amongst the smokers, he prompted a round of thunderous applause from the sidewalk crowds.

The next passersby to come through — four men in traditional Jewish dress: black hats, long black coats, beards — got barely a glance.

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