MAY 2003

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A Campaign Countering The Anti-French Sentiment
From France-Amerique

An advertisment appearing in the community newspapers of the Manhattan Media group encouraged New Yorkers to not yield to anti-French feelings.

“New York City gets its strength from our diversity, and there is room for everyone at New York’s collective dinner table”, reads the advertisement. “We are all New Yorkers and the boycott only hurts us and our neighbors”.

According to the office of tourism NYC & Company, certain French restaurants suffered from the relations between Paris and Washington but no organized boycott was noted. This agency, a part of the municipality of New York, worries about the impact that could happen against French establishments which present a vital economical sector.

New York City’s restaurants generate $12.5 billion of the city’s revenues, and provide more than 150,000 jobs.

The initiative was presented on April 10 in the restaurant The Circus 2000 in the presence of Cristyne L. Nicholas, director of NYC & Company, Tim Zagat, the restaurant guide editor, and a certain number of French restaurant owners in New York (Rita Jamet for The Caravel, Jacques Capsouto for Capsouto Brothers, Sylvain Fareri for The Métaierie, Éric Ripert, chef of the Bernardin, and David Fléau, Chef of the Lutèce).

The restaurant owners present in the Circus testified to have met customers who refused to be served French wine or who were reluctant to eat in places with French connections.

Is it due to an eventual boycott, an economical crisis, or to the war in Iraq? French restaurant owners do not believe at all in the first reason but evoke the effects of the two others that affect not only their businesses, but the whole industry.

Claude Godard, the owner of Madison Bistro, noted that the number of dinner and weekends clients has decreased because those who live outside Manhattan (Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey) are going out less lately. “People are anxious about tomorrow but things change very fast. We’ve noticed a recovery since the war seems to be going in a good way,” he said. The French wine created some enemies but not the food “because the dishes are prepared by Americans.”

The evolution of the situation in Iraq is also noted by Jean-Paul Picot, owner of La Bonne Soupe: “The war is practically finished, people are going out again.” He assures that his restaurant wasn’t affected at all.

For several decades, he benefited from a big faithful French clientele, but the Americans are the majority in this place that does not empty out, notably at lunch time. He serves only French wine that nobody seems to refuse, including American customers.

However, the economy has well changed. Robert Arbor, of the restaurant Le Gamin, quotes some very concrete consequences: the deduction of businesses’ general expenses is explained by the restrictions in credit cards use.

“Now, when people come to eat in groups, they share the bill and unfortunately they come less often. Besides, a big number of young people who took advantage of the Internet bubble, or of the entertainment world, have lost their jobs.”

Arbor counts among its customers a majority of artists who have shown their solidarity and are more worried about the “smoking ban” than of the boycott of the war in Iraq.
Lucien Bahaj, of Lucien restaurant, has also artiste clientele, actors and intellectuals who are Francophile; therefore they are natural opponents of all boycotts. « I didn’t notice any anti-French feelings,” notes Lucien.

John-Claude Lincy, owner of Pierre au Tunnel with his wife Jacqueline, have a more shady analysis. Local Broadway and business clients remained faithful, even if they refuse sometimes to order French wine. But the number of tourists, coming from Canada or from other United States cities, decreased.

Fortunately, those who had anti-French feelings are limited: “a group of six persons exceptionally canceled their reservation the other day because once of them did not want to come to a French restaurant and the person who made the reservation excused for the cancellation while giving the reason.”

John-Claude fears that the current discomfort doesn’t pass quickly while specifying that the negative comments on the French position are counterbalanced by support messages.

Translated from French by Elias Saber

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