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Police bust 100 at underground Paris restaurant

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Police officers check IDs of demonstrators near the Palais Vivienne event venue in Paris, on April 6, 2021. – A report by French TV channel M6 alleging “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked an investigation and public furore over claims the nation’s political elite were brazenly ignoring rules they themselves had set. One source interviewed by M6 was later identified by media and bloggers as Pierre-Jean Chalencon, who runs the Palais Vivienne. In a statement sent to AFP through his lawyer late April 4, Chalencon implicitly acknowledged he was the source but also appeared to retract a claim ministers were involved in the dinners, saying he was only showing “humour” and the “sense of the absurd”. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)


Paris police fined over 100 diners late Friday at an underground restaurant flouting coronavirus restrictions and arrested its organiser, after a week of allegations that ministers attended similar rule-breaking events.

Officers were “called out for an excessive noise complaint about a restaurant” and “put an end to a gathering of over 110 people,” the French capital’s police posted on Twitter.

“Guests fined for failling to respect applicable health measures. Organiser and manager arrested,” they added.

Underground restaurants offering wealthy people a pre-coronavirus dining experience have made headlines in France throughout this week.

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

Participants were shown enjoying caviar and champagne at the event costing 220 euros(260 dollars) per person.

All restaurants and cafes have been closed in France for eating in for the last five months. The country this week began a new limited nationwide lockdown to deal with surging Covid-19 infections.

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

Chalencon had claimed to have held several dinners at his luxury Palais Vivienne venue in central Paris attended by ministers.

“At this stage of the investigation, there is no evidence that indicates any members of the government took part in the dinners being investigated,” prosecutors said after interviewing him.

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