Do you organize a clandestine event by having friends over for dinner? The question could arise after the holding of sumptuous dinners under the gilding of the Palais Vivienne, in Paris, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. Pierre-Jean Chalençon, owner of this mansion and presented as the organizer of the meals, and the restaurateur Christophe Leroy are cited in this case, for which the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation for “endangering others” and “covert work”.
In a video unearthed by Internet users, the former purchaser of the France 2 program “Affaire concluded” affirmed, in February, his desire to set up dinners within the framework of a private club called the “Vivienne’s club” . “Twice a month, with my friend Christophe Leroy – Johnny Hallyday’s chef – and other chefs, we will receive people for lunch or dinner. (…) I am reinventing myself, the restaurants are closed; here, it is nearly 600 m2, we can afford to accommodate 6 or 8 or 10 people in the different lounges “.
In a video published on February 1 on YouTube, Pierre-Jean Chalançon evokes the dinners organized with Christophe Leroy. And he says, “My friend Attal is due to come to dinner soon” (via @MichelEpicetou) pic.twitter.com/anIQDJnr4c
– Sylvain Chazot (@sychazot) April 4, 2021
In the private setting, no restriction
This new controversy raises the question of the organization of “private” events in this period of pandemic. Where is the line between an underground restaurant and a simple meal with friends?
“The law and case law are very clear on one point: the state of health emergency cannot regulate gatherings and behavior in private homes,” explains Nicolas Hervieu, lecturer in public law at Sciences Po. Organizing a party or inviting for dinner at home cannot therefore be sanctioned., just like the fact of not applying barrier gestures.
“And when the government talks about not gathering more than six people, it is only a health recommendation.” Travel to or from it can be fined in times of confinement and curfew, if we cannot be able to justify it.
Prohibition to open a restaurant
Outside the private framework, justice has more latitude. Indeed, the state decree of health emergency prohibits the opening of part of establishments open to the public (ERP), and particularly restaurants and bars. “If a person opens such an establishment when he is not entitled to do so, he falls within the scope of the law,” continues Nicolas Hervieu.
It is precisely the defense of Christophe Leroy, the culprit-organizer : “The services provided were, as permitted by law, in private homes and not in restaurant-type public buildings”. The investigation will have to determine whether the Palais Vivienne is considered an ERP or a private home.
Pay to eat
According to Nicolas Hervieu, the “commercial” aspect of the event alone can differentiate a clandestine dinner from a private party. “For a meal at home, we are not going to ask for compensation from our friends. If we ask to pay for food, we are dealing here with customers ”.
This hidden economic activity can also be found through the presence of servers. “By the fact that the restaurants are closed, we imagine that their work is not declared”. We therefore understand why Pierre-Jean Chalençon affirms that the meal was not chargeable – “When I invite people to dinner at my place, it is I who invites them, I do not ask them to pay” -, then that the dinner menus, costing several hundred euros, turn on the web.
If you can’t be fined for a private party – except for the nighttime noise, 68 € – the establishment of an underground restaurant is punishable. Social fines for Urssaf, criminal penalties for concealed work; one year’s imprisonment and a fine of € 15,000 if the offense of endangering the life of others is characterized; fine of 135 € for non-compliance with confinement and non-wearing of a mask for the participants, potential prosecution for having taken advantage of the hidden work… Which is expensive for dinner, already invoiced € 220 per person, according to M6.
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