France Considering Fining Businesses Over $53K for COVID Violations

Businesses could be fined $53,250 for COVID-19 violations as France tries to pass a new law that requires patrons to show they are vaccinated, tested negative or have recovered from the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.

The law could be fatal to small businesses that have struggled economically after losses during the pandemic.

Mama Kin owner Gauthier Max said restaurants and bars no longer are places of leisure but spaces of constraint and restriction.

"We've effectively become policemen," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

France to Fine Businesses $53k, COVID Violations
Businesses could be fined $53,250 for COVID-19 violations as France tries to pass a new law that requires patrons to show they are vaccinated, tested negative or have recovered from the coronavirus. Above, a man holds a French national flag as he takes part in a march in central Paris on July 14, 2021, to protest against a governmental decision to impose COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated people who want to eat in restaurants or take long-distance trips. Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Getty Images

"Our job used to be to make sure that our guests had a great time while they were with us. Now, we spend our time reprimanding them. We weren't trained for this," said Louis le Mahieu, manager of the Parisian restaurant Les Bancs Publics.

Les Bancs Publics sits on a street corner on the canal that wends through northeast Paris, a neighborhood popular with young people who gather in its many cafes or on the banks of the canal, drinking and listening to music. Vivid street art livens the neighborhood, and there is a pop-up vaccination booking space nearby, next to Paris Plage, the city's yearly summer urban beach project.

Like other restaurants in the bustling area, Le Bancs Publics is already struggling to respect France's oft-changing virus rules. It's one of hundreds of Paris venues shut down for not respecting limits on visitors since French restaurants reopened in May for the first time in nearly seven months. So its brightly colored metal shutters are drawn and no diners are in sight.

Cafe and bar owners worry they'll face more such trouble when the COVID pass becomes obligatory.

A collective of angry restaurant owners is scheduled to meet Thursday with the area police chief to discuss the virus challenges and try to find solutions, Max said.

Unions have pushed back at the new pass requirement, as did protesters at demonstrations in Paris and other cities around France on Wednesday. Tourists are also confused about how they can get the COVID passes before they come into effect next month; the government promises answers soon.

Citing resurgent infections across the country, President Emmanuel Macron and his government say the COVID passes are the only way to keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed again—and to avoid tougher measures like new lockdowns.

With health rules changing rapidly, many restaurant owners said they struggle to keep track. Mahieu said even police officers he asks on the street don't always know the latest regulations.

He said he would observe the new health rules, but warned they could incur new costs and lower returns.

"We'll likely need one employee to be allocated to it full time, and a security guard to manage disgruntled people whom we'll have to turn away," he told AP. "We'll be stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Many restaurant owners understand the need for virus control, and want to avoid even tougher measures.

"I'm very pro-vaccine and find the health pass to be a good idea and a completely reasonable measure. Other vaccines are mandatory in France today," said Christine Boudon, owner of La Fontaine de Mars near the Eiffel Tower, one of Paris' oldest restaurants.

"However, it may be difficult for us to put in place. Checking clients' health passes is a little bit akin to police work. Only the most senior staff here will be able to carry out this task."

France to Fine Businesses $53k, COVID Violations
Businesses could be fined $53,250 for COVID-19 violations as France tries to pass a new law that requires patrons to show they are vaccinated, tested negative or have recovered from the coronavirus. Above, people eat and drink outdoors at a terrace bar in Lyon, central France, on July 13, 2021. Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press