Nous Sommes En Terrasse
It’s impossible to imagine Paris without cafés and bistros—and its famous café culture. But changing tastes and rising rents in Paris (as well as declining populations in small towns) has fed a steady decline in the number of cafés—from 200,000 nationwide in 1960 to about 35,000 today. In Paris, some sources cite* that the number of cafés has dwindled from 45,000 in 1880 to around 7,000 (some say 5,000)—and more cafés are closing every month. With a surge of pricey, trendy restaurants in Paris as a part of a sweeping gentrification of its neighborhoods, and the current obsession with Brooklyn-style coffee houses, Paris cafés, bistros, and even brasseries are in danger of disappearing. The city is so concerned that they asked UNESCO to give their beloved bistros World Heritage status.
Why We Care
The neighborhood café is a vital part of local community life. Often unpretentious and affordable, they are inclusive public houses serving people from all walks of life. In a city where people live in tiny apartments, cafés serve as our living rooms, our offices, and our connection to the larger world.
While new-style coffee houses and co-working spaces also serve a purpose in today’s Paris, unlike the café, which is social in nature, these other businesses are usually intended for the solitary client sitting at their computer, or for the quick get in/get out. Cafés serve a unique purpose, and even in a busy city like Paris, they still fill up with locals looking to relax and share de bons moments with each other. In an increasingly harried and insecure world, the ease and warmth of café life is more necessary than ever—and an inextricable part of Parisian and French culture.
Save the Paris Café Celebrates Paris Café Culture
We are a non-profit collective of writers and locals celebrating what we love about café life. And we love all cafés—old and new. We’re not about nostalgia, and not anti-“new” Paris. Every city needs to be progressive. Save the Paris Café believes that Paris should move forward, but not by blind appropriation and an erasure of its own uniqueness. The traditional Parisian café still has a place in a modern city.
We seek to celebrate what’s special about café culture, work with café owners to help them innovate with the times and remain relevant—and encourage city government to support local business owners, preserving cafés by helping them thrive.
Our Goals Include:
- To highlight what is vitally important about cafés and bistros, and why we need to protect them
- Not just for the lifestyle/culture, but for the larger issue of protecting small businesses, and the local residential life in cities and small towns
- To start a conversation about the local café
- Feature and promote favorite cafes around Paris and in France
- To create outreach for café owners
- A platform/forum for owners to share with each other
- A source of advice/education on how to improve their business (e.g., proper cleaning of coffee machines; benefits of serving fresh vs. flash-frozen food)
- To liaise with government regarding legislation that can help café owners survive and thrive in today’s economy
Featured image top of page: Au Baroudeur, 11th arrondissement. A favorite unpretentious local joint where everybody knew your name. It did reopen under a new owner, with a new look and new name. But it’s geared more for tourists than locals.
*Real current stats are hard to come by because stats include any place that serves beverages—and that’s a wide net. We’ve used a variety of sources, including: Rick Tulka as quoted in “The Creative Life of the Parisian Cafe,” CBS News; and “France Fears Death of Village Life as Cafés Call Last Orders,” The Guardian.