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The disappearance of village pubs is accelerating.

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Despite the innovation, coffee has always been the first social network in the territories. So what happened to the 600,000 bistros that existed in France in 1960? By 2016, there were only 34,000. (1). And today, out of the 32,212 French communes, 26,000 no longer have cafés, even though these establishments are at the heart of the village ecosystem. 

The Union des Métiers et des Industries de l'Hôtellerie (UMIH), on the occasion of the Assises de la ruralité, held in Rodez on April 9, reacts in presenting a manifesto "Cafés, Hotels, Restaurants: the beating heart of our villages" with seven priorities to awaken rural territories. This manifesto will be addressed to the Government, Members of Parliament, Department and Region Presidents, and local elected representatives via the UMIH departmental federations. What is at stake for society?
 
En Anjou, in the small village of Chanzeaux, only the small local café still resisted. The post office has closed, the bakery has just drawn the curtain. Yet dozens of small houses grew like mushrooms in the fields. The air is mild, the countryside is calm and the school welcomes the children of families newly arrived from Angers some twenty kilometres away. The "good corner" is about to close. No more commercial activity in the town of barely 1200 inhabitants. Are our villages going to become dormitory towns? 
Today, 26,000 municipalities in France no longer have cafés, while the CHR establishments (cafés, hotels, restaurants) are at the heart of the village ecosystem: they create jobs and social links, they liven up village life, they encourage the deployment of a cultural offer, they contribute to the tourist attractiveness of the areas, etc...
Their role, which is essential for the economic and social development of the territories, is also widely recognised by the French. According to a IFOP survey for UMIHThe report, carried out in March 2018 with 1012 people representative of the French population, was presented at the conference:
- The contribution of cafés, hotels and restaurants to rural communities is recognized almost unanimously by the French: 90 % of the French think that in a rural community, the presence of a CHR contributes to the economic life and the social link.
- However, these shops do not always seem easy to find: 68% of the French say they have already had difficulty finding a hotel, 54% a restaurant and 43% a café.
- The French are in favour of the presence of services facilitating exchanges (wifi access, cash dispenser, post office relay), or the possibility of finding local products. The sale of tobacco products or scratch games appears to be a secondary service to be offered to the French.
- The removal of the derogatory pre-signs is a brake on the economic development of the CHRs for 85% of the French.

READ ALSO IN UP' : How to revive our villages and town centres?

Very often one of the first things you do when you arrive in a village is to look for the local café, the nice café. Sometimes there is only one, sometimes you have to choose the right one... The one that will tell you about the place, where you are parachuted in for a few hours or a few days while you do your business. The one that will allow you to tame a territory and the people who live there. And when he is chosen, he can become an "office", a source of information, a landmark in our journey. A café is reassuring, it's lively, you learn a lot. »
 

The 7 priorities of UMIH in favour of rurality

1. Make a commitment The UMIH has announced the setting up of a "Rurality & Territories" Commission, chaired by Michel Morin, which will be the contact point for local elected representatives and professionals and will be responsible for monitoring the progress of the dossiers that will be submitted. The success of CHR companies depends on the advice and support that UMIH is able to provide.
 
2. Easing constraints and encouraging the transfer of businesses :
1. To make the Rural Revitalization Zones (ZRR) system more flexible, sustainable and promote: In order to encourage the maintenance, local development and recruitment in Rural Revitalization Zones (ZRR), companies created or taken over before December 31, 2020 benefit from tax exemptions under certain conditions related in particular to the number of employees and the nature of the activity. However, this existing mechanism is not well known to elected officials and businesses, even though as of 1 July 2017, 14,901 municipalities were eligible for it.
2. To create a 6th category of ERP (Establishments receiving from the public) to alleviate the constraints: Small CHR establishments face restrictive, complex and increasingly dense regulations; standards that imply investments that they cannot make. There are adjustments to fire safety and accessibility regulations for hotels accommodating a maximum of 20 people.
3. Abolishing the increased tariff for the contribution to public broadcasting: Abolishing the increased tariff for televisions installed in 3rd and 4th category on-trade premises.
4. Set up a "Learning Company" scheme for the CHRs in rural areas: Mobility is an obstacle for young people to access training leading to qualifications. It is also a difficulty for establishments in rural areas that have difficulty recruiting young people on work-study programmes.
 
3. Reinstate derogatory pre-paid signs for cafés, hotels, restaurants, etc.
Since 13 July 2015, establishments located outside agglomerations and in agglomerations of less than 10,000 inhabitants have been obliged to withdraw their derogatory pre-sealings. A derogatory pre-existing sign was a directional sign located on the outskirts of municipalities for road users and tourists. Their location was strategic for the survival of these businesses.
 

4. Better management of IV licenses
1. Create a national registry of licences
2. Limit the transfer of licences to neighbouring departments
3. Create a new IV licence for rural communes that no longer have one.
 
5. Developing rural tourism: A major tourism policy must benefit all territories.
1. Highlighting the richness of our territories: Gastronomy, heritage, green tourism, wine tourism... The richness of our territories is an invaluable growth potential for tourists looking for authenticity and experience. To ensure its place as the world's leading destination, France must attract tourists to all its territories and not just the coast or Paris. 
2. Simplify the governance of tourism at the local level: Simplify the governance of tourism at the local level, by reducing the territorial millefeuille (Tourist Office, Tourist Development Agency, Regional Tourist Committees...) and by clarifying the competences of each one. The territorial tourism offer would gain in efficiency, competitiveness and visibility.
 
6. Acting for sustainable development The establishments are the prescribers of local products and are therefore particularly sensitive to the need to take into account sustainable development in rural areas. Waste management is also becoming a major issue (new regulatory obligations, introduction of special collection rates in a number of municipalities).
 
7. Developing digital Rural areas: Establishments located in rural areas are dependent on digital coverage to attract customers and thus develop their business, but also to satisfy customer demand to be permanently connected. Very high speed broadband, in addition to word of mouth and local networks, is the ideal tool for the promotional and economic deployment of catering establishments and rural tourism.
 
 
"The café, the hotel, the restaurant, are the beating heart of a village. They are often the last business, rich in identity, the only place to meet and enjoy life. Their presence is a bulwark against desertification, against the departure of young people and working people. I am convinced that there is a future for our establishments in rural areas, that there is a future outside the big cities. With this conference, we are committing ourselves to a much broader cause, a social issue: rurality, a bearer of hope. Settling down and living in a rural community is also a choice of life with tremendous successes. And we could be even more successful if we implemented our proposals. Our responsibility is to launch this large-scale mobilisation: our own, but also that of the communes, economic agents and the State. Our action plan is the starting point for the reconquest of rural territories. », declared Roland HEGUY, in front of more than 200 professionals and local elected officials gathered in Rodez at the beginning of April.
 
For Michel MORIN, President of the Rurality and Territories Commission of UMIH, "Our villages are what makes France so rich. With the UMIH's Rurality and Territories Commission, which we are going to open up to our partners, but also to local elected representatives, we are going to militate so that the conditions, both for the creation of new establishments and for the development and maintenance of existing establishments, are facilitated. »
 
The richness of the debates during these conferences revealed the relevance and importance of the subject of Rurality: young entrepreneurs who came to testify to their professional success, partners committed to offering innovative solutions, elected officials and mayors determined to redeploy their territories economically and socially.
 

Is a café or a hotel-restaurant enough to revive and energize rural communities?

CHRs are sensors of the vitality of a local economy. Neither they nor the UMIH can suffice to initiate a virtuous economic fabric. Other branches must be involved in the reconstruction of rural activity. This requires concrete measures. UMIH's action plan is intended to be the starting point for the reconquest of rural areas. It is an ambitious and achievable objective of national interest. Obviously, the implementation of these measures requires the commitment of public authorities. Moreover, the Government seems to be sending out favourable signs, in particular with the plan "Heart of Town Action" which aims to revitalise town centres: 222 medium-sized towns have just been selected for this programme, which provides for a budget of 5 billion euros to overcome rural desertification.
 
As for town halls, they must do everything to make these establishments work: According to Vanik Berberian, President of the Association of Rural Mayors of France (AMRF), a wine of honour should be organised at each event, at each commemoration. But also by accompanying the managers, by buying back the licence IV, by making available a communal building which is being transformed. But it would also be necessary to imagine tax breaks and exemptions taking into account the situation of a business in rural areas. It would also be necessary to be less insistent on the standards that require disproportionate expenses with the activity of the businesses.
If there is no economic activity in some villages, the human factor must be revealed: In rural areas, notoriety is not built through social networks but by word of mouth. When the service is of quality and when the boss shows an extraordinary conviviality, success is there. But it's always a fragile balance and the question of the economic fabric in rural areas remains unresolved. Vanik Berberian continues: "What we are waiting for is for rurality to stop being a nostalgic evocation and for the State to invest massively in the territories instead of acting as compensation. »
 

Our coffees must reinvent themselves

The causes of disenchantment are diverse: 90% of alcohol sales are in hypermarkets. Another cause is the gentrification of town centres where local residents and security measures are less and less tolerant of noise and noise pollution, such as music. And, of course, the desertification of rural areas.
So, what if our coffees were to change? Turning them from mere pubs into new cultural venues? A new bistro culture? And what better way to bring people together than through culture and cuisine?
The Ministry of Culture seems to have taken the measure of this necessary change. In rural areas, it is buying back buildings in order to reinstall cultural cafés that could combat the desertification of villages: concerts, exhibitions, ... The Ministry has also created in 2015 an aid fund designed to promote artistic employment in cafés and restaurants, the GIP Cafés CulturesThe use of the system is particularly useful for café-concerts and small venues. This fund is financed by local authorities wishing to roll out this scheme in their territory and by partners. To date, and since 2015, 22 local authorities are members, 604 CHR have applied, 18,740 employees have received assistance and more than 500,000 euros have been allocated. This fund is an effective support for all these living and local places that contribute to shaping society, in both urban and rural areas. 
 
 
The demand for local coffee has never been stronger. The desire to reconnect with a relaxed social link, the dynamism of the associative fabric, the development of teleworking, the search for naturalness and locality, the increasing scarcity of public services, all contribute to reinstalling the cafés in the heart of our villages. In this age of social networks, coffee can once again become the leading local social network. So why not reinvent them by encouraging multi-service points (drinking establishment + small grocery store or sale of local products) or the reception of local public services. The cafés are becoming places of advice in the image of the initiative. "the corner council" launched by notaries since the idea is to offer free advice in cafés. The notaries thus break the codes to remind people loud and clear that access to law for all is an essential right.
 
The revival of coffee shops requires a triple revolution in quality, reception and services, provided that a global action plan is undertaken to build attractive areas with the support of all stakeholders.
 

 
(1) France Beverages/CREDOC barometer, "Understanding and responding to the weakening of the restaurant and catering sector in France".
 
To go further :
 
- White Paper "Coffee, a chance for our territories" by Loïc Latour, President of France Boissons - In partnership with the AMRF (Association of Rural Mayors of France), the APVF (Association of Small Towns of France) and eTerritoire, a platform for promoting territories.
 

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