PARIS — Paris wouldn’t be Paris without its bistros and terrace cafes. Now businessmen and chefs want that integral part of the French capital’s way of life to be officially recognized as of global value and endangered.
Bistro owners have launched a campaign for their establishments to be named by the United Nations’ cultural agency as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.” UNESCO has given that status to traditions as varied as a Mongolian camel-coaxing ritual, Iranian sailboat building and the sung prayers of indigenous Peruvians.
The owners say the bistros of Paris play a key role in bringing people of all origins, religions, social classes and age together in an inexpensive and welcoming place to drink coffee or share a meal. They also argue that the traditional bistro is threatened by increasing rents and competition, with numbers dropping by half in the past 20 years.
“Our most beautiful love and friendship stories were often born in bistros and on terraces,” said Le Mesturet owner Alain Fontaine, president of the bistro owners association.
A visiting tourist “will find a lively place, a place to share with the people of Paris — the people of Paris of today, not the people of the past,” Fontaine added. “A multi-ethnic, inter-faith, socially varied people. All of this disappears inside a bistro.”
The association hopes to see its candidacy examined by UNESCO next year.
Fontaine stressed that the “real Parisian bistro” offers homemade food and accessible prices — like a coffee for 1 euro ($1.1) and the day’s special with a glass of wine for 12 euros ($14.)
Parisians and tourists alike enjoy their typical decor — zinc counters, wooden tables and wine bottles for decoration.
Bistros were the kind of establishment people were relaxing outside of when extremists shot at them on Nov. 13, 2015. The attacks that targeted a concert hall and a soccer stadium as well as cafes left 130 people dead.
In the days after the attacks, Parisians rallied at cafes and terraces in a show of defiance, widely using the hashtag #Tousaubistrot (Everyone to the bistro) on social media. /ee