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Police fine dozens at clandestine restaurants flouting Covid lockdown

·2-min read

Paris police said they fined more than 100 diners at a clandestine restaurant flouting coronavirus restrictions last weekend. They arrested the event organiser. A further 62 participants were arrested having lunch at another illegal eatery in the up-market Paris suburb of Saint-Ouen.

Officers were "called out to investigate an excessive noise complaint at a restaurant" late last Friday and "put an end to a gathering," the French capital's police force explained on Twitter.

"Guests were fined for failing to respect applicable health measures. Organiser and manager arrested," they added.

The prosecutor's office said the two had since been released. The investigation continues.

In a second incident in Saint-Ouen, just outside Paris, police fined 62 people at lunchtime on Friday.

Police tweeted that they had arrested the manager of that restaurant as well.

Clandestine restaurants offering a pre-coronavirus dining experience have recently made headlines in France.

The M6 television channel last week broadcast a report based on footage recorded with a hidden camera purportedly from a clandestine restaurant in a wealthy area of Paris, where neither the staff nor the diners were wearing masks.

Participants were shown enjoying caviar and champagne at the event, for a price of 220 euros per person.

Restaurants still closed

All restaurants and cafés have been closed in France for the past five months. The country is now in a third nationwide lockdown in an effort to control surging Covid-19 infections.

One of the organisers of the dinner shown by M6, businessman and collector Pierre-Jean Chalençon, was briefly detained for questioning by police Friday alongside chef Christophe Leroy.

The former Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told French news agency AFP he had attended a "professional lunch" with a journalist late last month, and that the event had been organised by Leroy.

But he said he was informed it was completely legal because it was in a private and isolated apartment rather than in a restaurant.

"We were less than six, no rule was broken," Hortefeux said, adding "it was very disturbing" to be linked with the illegal dinners for which Leroy is under police investigation.

(With AFP)