PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Paris, whose wild nightlife drew generations of party goers from Ernest Hemingway to Jim Morrison, is now more notorious for curfews than carousing.
Dismayed nightcrawlers say swelling red tape, nightclub closures, gentrification and po-faced disapproval are increasingly thwarting their attempts to have a good time.
“‘Smoke over there, put your glass down here’. We get told off all the time. In short, it’s the opposite of what we want when we go out at night,” said Marthe Lazarus, a local artist.
At a recent press conference, nightclub, bar and restaurant owners expressed distress over the number of canceled concerts, buckets of water poured over smokers and epithets hurled at anyone who attempted to dance in a bar.
Some say that the very soul of Parisian nightlife is at stake and feel the city is losing ground to London, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin.
“Since about a year, we have been harassed constantly by the police as soon as we make the slightest noise outside. It’s really tough,” said Morgane de Ferluc, who runs the restaurant l‘Emile, close to the Louvre museum in the city center.
“We run the risk of being shut down, which would be a catastrophe,” she added.
La Loco, a historic disco close to cabaret theater Moulin Rouge, is turning into a restaurant. Le Batofar, an electronic music hotspot on a barge, and Paris-Paris, another club, have all been shut down due to noise disturbance.
Several bars have also lost the right to open late and are now forced to shut their doors at 2 a.m. rather than 5 a.m.. One bar on the bustling Rue Montorgueil was shut down for eight days after closing at 2:20 a.m. rather than 2:00 a.m.
An explosion in property prices has also transformed areas formerly synonymous with fun such as Pigalle and Bastille.
On top of that, countless complaints have been made by residents irked by private parties or smokers forced by a smoking ban to light up outside clubs and restaurants.
Event organizers, electronic music artists and other music fans have taken their fury online.
A petition, “When the night quietly dies,” was launched at the beginning of November and had around 12,000 signatures by Wednesday -- 2,000 of them from artists.
“It’s going great guns,” Eric Labbe, one of the authors, told Reuters. “Feelings are running high.”
The petition will be sent to Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, the head of police and the interior and culture ministries on December 31.
The authors suggest setting up a ‘festive district’ and financial aid for smaller premises to install noise insulation.
“We are not here to create problems. We are doing Paris good, we are being sociable, fostering culture, letting people live,” said Lionel Bensemoun, head of Baron, a popular club.
For its part, the Paris mayor’s office has set up a Web site, parisnightlife.fr, to buff up the city’s nocturnal image. Representatives of party goers, the town hall and the prefecture also held an initial meeting last week.
“Let’s share the space, reconcile the night owls and the granddads,” said Jean-Bernard Bros, who in charge of tourism at Paris city hall.
“Nothing would be sadder than a city which draws its curtains at 8.30 p.m..”
Writing by Sophie Taylor, editing by Paul Casciato