Where's the Fête? Paris Fights Back Against Accusation of Boring Nightlife

Amid complaints that Parisian nightlife has lost ground to cities like Berlin and Barcelona, French officials are doing their best to buff up the city's reputation. But partygoers, perturbed by red tape and the closure of famous clubs, say that more has to be done to enliven the city in the wee hours.
The lights of "Le Moulin Rouge" shine bright on its 120-year anniversary -- but many argue that Parisian nightlife has lost its sparkle.

The lights of "Le Moulin Rouge" shine bright on its 120-year anniversary -- but many argue that Parisian nightlife has lost its sparkle.


Big names like the Moulin Rouge have long made Paris' nightlife legendary, but now the city has lost its nocturnal glow. Partygoers argue that the fun has been spoiled by zealous police enforcement of noise controls and extensive bureaucracy. But, on Wednesday, Paris officials fought back to shore up the reputation of the so-called City of Lights, introducing a new nightlife guide and an extensive Web site.

"You keep hearing that Paris is not as trendy as it once was and that partying is better in other European capitals," said Jean-Bernard Bros, head of tourism at Paris city hall, told journalists. "Paris loves the night; life doesn't stop at 8 p.m."

He announced the launch of the bilingual (French-English) Parisnightlife.fr  Web site, which allows night owls to scroll through 300 of the city's bars and nightclubs by area or music style. A free handout explaining the city's after-hours charms will also be distributed to some of the city's millions of foreign visitors. "Paris nights are part of our cultural heritage and our economy," said Bros.

But some in the capital fear that the move is too little, too late. According to an online petition entitled "When the Night Quietly Dies," which was organized by a group from the techno and electronic music scene, the City of Lights is in danger of becoming the "European Capital of Sleep." Among the complaints listed in the petition are the closure of leading bars, strict rules on noise and smoking regulations.

Exiled Party Lovers?

"It is now well-known that Paris has lost all kind of European leadership to the benefit of towns such as London, Barcelona, Prague and Berlin, to which more and more French professional artists are going into exile," they wrote on their Web site.

By Thursday, some 11,964 disillusioned night-life fans had signed the petition, which its organizers plan to deliver to the mayor at the end of the year.

And it stands in contrast to the situation in Berlin, which saw double-digit increases in the number of tourists visiting the city over the summer and has long known that its lively underground scene is an important element in its global draw. As well as an official Web site dedicated to the city's main attractions for young people, there are also pub crawls and alternative tours of Berlin, which shun the usual attractions in favor of street art and visits to artists' squats.

And, in Paris, Jean-Bernard Bros indicated that the pendulum might have swung too far toward those seeking a quiet life: "Let's share the space, reconcile the night owls and the granddads," he said.

jas -- with wire reports
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