This summer, for the first time in more than two centuries, Parisian bakers can go on vacation whenever they choose following the French government passing legislation intended to “simplify corporate life,” including getting rid of rules mandating that bakers in Paris stagger their summer vacations.
The tradition dates back to the French Revolution.
Set into proper law in 1970 and updated in 1995 and renewed every year since, the law mandated that half of the 1100 bakeries in Paris stayed open in July and the other half in August. Bakers who broke the law were fined $12 a day.
But now that lawmakers have gotten rid of the law, more bakeries are opting to shut down in August. With the regulations now gone, no official numbers exist on how many bakers are open and how many closed at any one time.
Pascal Barillon, vice president of the Professional Chamber of Parisian Bakers said his members had “no interest in all leaving simultaneously, even though many bakers are taking a break, you can still find bread pretty easily in Paris.”
Last weekend there was an on-going line out the door of Coquelicot, one of only a few bakeries still open in the heart of Montmartre, a quaint neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.
Owner Sylvie Fourmond described trying to keep up with demand that day as “infernal.”
“There was a moment when we ran out of bread, there’s nothing I could do about it. But people don’t understand. People have this idea that we make bread in five minutes,” she said.
Fourmond doesn’t equate a constant stream of customers as a good thing. She fears the quality of her products won't be as high when her staff are pressurised to bake faster and have deal with annoyed customers "tapping their feet in line, demanding faster turnaround".
Fourmond said she would welcome a return to the vacation mandate or even more coordination among colleagues to make August run more smoothly. “We passed so many years with a Napoleonic law that meant the prefecture told us when we could close,” she said. “And now, all of a sudden, people are taking off when they want for the first time. Maybe we need to organize amongst ourselves a little better.”
Paris resident Patrick Lucas was unfazed by the line and wait for bread and felt that even though bread is a French national right, so is time off.
“We’re in France, and there are also laws requiring that all people deserve vacation,” Lucas said “Even if commerce shuts down, it’s absolutely fair.”