PARIS (Reuters) - Parisians expressed their relief on Friday after President Emmanuel Macron set a date for the re-opening of cafes and restaurants, a cornerstone of French life whose closure during the COVID-19 pandemic triggered national angst.
Macron announced on Thursday that cafes and restaurants could re-open from May 19, as long as they only serve customers on terraces in the open air, and did not seat more than six people at each table.
That will end a six-month stretch with no hospitality venues open in a country that invented haute cuisine and whose people spend more time than any other developed nation eating and drinking, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"It's a relief. We really have had enough," said Verena Aebischer of the re-opening announcement as she picked up a takeaway coffee order on Friday from a cafe in the Montparnasse neighbourhood of Paris.
"It's really a relief to be able to go to a restaurant, to see friends, to have a drink," she said.
Restaurateur Didier Ollivier agreed.
"It's a good thing. I think people have had enough, especially if you live in a big city like Paris. People want to get out and about," he said as he served takeaway customers on the pavement outside his shuttered establishment.
Ollivier said he hoped when customers do come back, they will respect social distancing and not trigger a new wave of the coronavirus. "We need discipline," he added.
A handful of restaurateurs who chafed at the closures have already re-opened but several have been visited by police and threatened with fines.
To meet demand from restaurant-starved Parisians, clandestine dining clubs have begun operating, according to media reports. Paris police mounted patrols this week to try to find illegal venues.
(Reporting by Clotaire Achi; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones)