It is now “défense de fumer” in “le bistrot” …

Since January 1 it is forbidden to smoke in France in public places. This means that one can no longer light up when enjoying one’s “petit café noir” or “petit ballon de vin rouge” in a bistrot. As a non-smoker and anti-tobacconist (I think I just this minute invented that word!) I am delighted that […]

Since January 1 it is forbidden to smoke in France in public places.

This means that one can no longer light up when enjoying one’s “petit café noir” or “petit ballon de vin rouge” in a bistrot.

As a non-smoker and anti-tobacconist (I think I just this minute invented that word!) I am delighted that this is so, but the “Union des Métiers et Industries de l’Hôtellerie” claims that bistrots have lost 10% of their patrons since January 1. Meanwhile, René Le Pape, President of the “Confédération des Buralistes” (a ‘buraliste’ is someone who sells tobacco and can be either a bistrot owner or a newsagent) claims that the figure is higher: Easily between 30 to 50 per cent.

What is certain is that patrons now do not spend quite as long as before over their little black coffees or small glasses of red wine. Once, one could have – and did – nurse one’s “drink” in a bistrot for hours and hours. One could even have done so for half-a-day, even an entire day, and no one would have suggested that you move on, or re-order. Students definitely used to sit for hours over their 50centimes black coffees in the Latin Quarter‘s bistrots. Today, by the way, a small black coffee will take 2.50 off you. But, of course, nothing stays the same: Even a bistrot (once it was spelled “bistro”) is, more often than not, called a “café” these days.

This brings me to the origin of this very French word “bistrot”.

As the French will tell you (and so do I now) it comes from the Russian word быстро which means “quick”: Russian soldiers having chased Napoleon’s Great Army right back to Paris in 1815 used to shout the word at waiters in the capital’s bars.

Yet, some (they must be foreigners for sure!) now say that the word derives from “bistrouille” which is what one calls a drink made from cheap alcohol – cheap brandy or wine.

I now ask you NOT to believe this …

The Russian-word story is so much more charming, isn’t it?

And, oh yes, please don’t call a bistrot a café either: It’s bistrot … bistrot … bistrot!

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

3 Responses to “It is now “défense de fumer” in “le bistrot” …”

  1. 3
    Silly Yak Tales Says:

    We are also totally smoke free in Alberta as of the 1st. They the smokers are whining more than a school of first graders. However, many restaraunts have been smoke free for some time and have not lost any customers. When I was in Ireland they had been smoke free for a long time and the bars were not suffering. The places crying the blues will stop in a while as they will not really lose anything. That now means all the non smokers which there is more of can now eat without suffering.

    Randi-Lee

  2. 2
    Satima Flavell Says:

    Yes, business will pick up again. People who didn’t visit bistrots because they couldn’t stand the smoke will start going, for a start.

    So how does a bistrot differ from a cafe, if at all?

  3. 1
    Jo Says:

    I am delighted with the smoking ban, I am sure business will pick up in les bistrots eventually. I know Portugal also instituted a smoking ban;it was so difficult for us when we visited in November because we couldn’t go anywhere in the evening because of smoke, Paris would, no doubt, have been the same. I wonder which of your stories is true?

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