French restaurants, bars and cafes faced a busy evening before a month-long curfew started at midnight (22:00 GMT) in Paris and other cities.
The controversial night curfew is aimed at curbing the soaring coronavirus infection rate in France, which is one of Europe’s coronavirus hotspots.
The full curfew begins on Saturday, from 21:00 to 06:00 every night.
The Paris region and eight other cities are affected, including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse.
About 20 million French people are covered by it, but mayors in some towns – notably Le Touquet and Creil in the north – have also announced curfews to prevent a knock-on effect, as frustrated revellers seek somewhere else to meet.
Le Touquet is on the coast west of Lille, while Creil lies just north of Paris and was badly hit by the first Covid wave in March.
French BFMTV said La Boîte aux Lettres, a restaurant in Paris’s popular Montmartre district, had received a flood of bookings for Friday evening.
The manager, Antonin Prion, said: “I hope this [curfew] has an impact and isn’t in vain, because this is really doing us damage.”
There have been bitter complaints from restaurant owners, already suffering after the two-month lockdown in spring, when the pandemic swept through Europe.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in the 50 years I’ve been here,” said Stain Roman, a restaurateur in Marseille, quoted by AFP news agency.
Currently, the government advises them to restrict each table to six people maximum. They are also observing strict hygiene rules and collecting customers’ contact details for track-and-trace.
What are the curfew rules?
- Restaurants, bars, cafes and cinemas must shut at 21:00 local time; food outlets can still provide night-time deliveries
- Jogging and dog-walking will still be allowed during the curfew but, as happened during the two-month lockdown earlier, a signed permit will be required, which can be downloaded onto a phone
- France is deploying 12,000 police officers specifically to enforce the curfew. The fine for a violation will be €135 (£122) and a repeat offender could face six months in prison and €3,750 fine
- The few exemptions include medical emergencies, essential home care visits and travel by train or plane at night. Shift workers with late hours may also break the curfew
- No sports events can run later than 21:00
- Wedding celebrations and other parties at public venues are banned
The curfew will hurt many other workers, besides those in the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Agathe, a student in Montpellier in the south, said she was dreading “the cancellation of all my babysitting evenings”. “I’ll lose all that money, so I hope this doesn’t carry on for a long time.”
Coronavirus has killed more than 32,000 people in France – among the highest death tolls in Europe.
Elsewhere in Europe:
- The Netherlands has returned to a partial lockdown, closing bars and restaurants, and hospitals in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are under pressure from new Covid patients. Hospitals in western Germany have readied spare beds to take Dutch patients if necessary
- New infections are also rising rapidly in Germany: the latest official daily figure is 7,334 cases, up from 6,638 on Thursday. Germany has declared many neighbouring countries and regions to be “high risk”, including the whole of France and the Netherlands
- Ireland now has a four-week national restriction on household visits, except for attending to medical and care needs
- Austria has imposed a quarantine on Kuchl, a town of 6,600 inhabitants in the Salzburg region, because of a Covid cluster there. It is the first such measure in Austria for months.