SAULIEU, France — Nathalie Guérin, 35, opened Le Festi’Val bar and cafe here two years ago full of high hopes, after working at this little Burgundy town’s main competition, the Café du Nord. But this summer, business started to droop, and in October, she said, “it’s been in free fall.”
“Now there’s no one,” she said, standing in a somber room with a few sad holiday decorations, an idle pool table and one young man playing a video game.
“People fear the future, and now with the banking crisis, they are even more afraid,” she said, her eyes reddening. “They buy a bottle at the supermarket and they drink it at home.”
The plight of Ms. Guérin is being replicated all over France, as traditional cafes and bars suffer and even close, hit by changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate. In 1960, France had 200,000 cafes, said Bernard Quartier, president of the National Federation of Cafes, Brasseries and Discotheques. Now it has fewer than 41,500, with an average of two closing every day.
Photo credit: Ed Alcock for The New York Times
Photo caption: Business at Le Relais, a cafe in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris, declined after a smoking ban took effect.