Heating Up the Debate on Cooling Down
Well, blow me down. News is out that France is banning the heated terraces at cafés, bars and restaurants. I am shocked!
In some ways the heated terraces were a blessing for non-smokers before smoking inside was banned in 2005. We could send all the smokers outside to breathe their own foul air, but then we complained that we non-smokers couldn’t enjoy the terraces ourselves. We couldn’t have it all. As many as 75 percent of cafés and restaurants in Paris have heated terraces…which they must have for survival as too many French still smoke.
Believe it or not, smoking in France has been on the rise ever since smoking indoors was banned, up from 29.9 percent in 2005 to 34.1 percent in 2014. This is in spite of the prohibition in indoor public places, workplaces, and public transport. Since 2010, France has required pictorial health warnings on all cigarette packs. Even taxes on tobacco increased, but smokers don’t seem to care. They just keep smoking.
In my 20’s, I was known to smoke three packs a day, so I fully understand the addiction, but how is it that America managed to curb smoking and France could not? The percentage of adult smokers in the U.S. has decreased from 21.6 percent in 2003 to 18.5 percent in 2015. Smoking bans began in 2003 and in 2005 warning labels were enforced on tobacco packaging. What makes us different from the irreverent French?
Meanwhile, the reason for the heating ban is ecological, aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Included in the ordinance is forcing air-conditioned buildings to keep their doors closed to avoid wasting energy. Some cities in France are already banning the heaters, but Paris is letting it go for now in the interest of an economic recovery. This is just one more blow for the food service industry that has suffered so much during confinement. They were forced to shut their doors for 11 weeks as the nation locked down to slow the spread of the virus.
So, now what would we have done without our outdoor seating? And what will the cafés and restaurants do without that income stream? Will we lose even more of our favorite cafés as a result?
Since deconfinement, many cities in France have allowed the eating and drinking establishments to extend their outdoor terraces well into the sidewalks and streets to allow for social distancing and compensate for their income loss. I’ve come to quite like it—my street once lined in parked cars is now taken up with tables and decorated with pretty plants. It’s a welcome change as the street is filled with the sound of laughter instead of motors.
You know the old saying, “When one door closes, another opens” (Alexander Graham Bell). But there’s more to the saying: “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” What I hope will come out of this is a new and brilliant way of heating the outdoor terraces without using so much energy. Perhaps some young entrepreneur will get crackin’ and creative about how we can have our heated cake and eat it, too.
A la prochaine,
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Learn more about France’s cafés, and particularly those in Paris by visiting Save the Paris Café!