The line for Copmtoir Generale, where Solange has held court on the turntables, still snakes around the block. Le Bonne Biere still hosts private parties in their upstairs lounge on Friday nights. And Candelaria, the clandestine cocktail/taco bar that serves up good guacamole, strong drinks and backroom DJs still makes a mean signature martini.
This is Paris’ upper Marais, a neighborhood that surrounds the Bataclan theater, where, on Nov. 13, 2015, 89 people were killed at an Eagles of Death Metal show in what was part of a series of terror attacks across Paris that ultimately claimed the lives of 130.
While all of Paris was changed in an instant just one year ago, much hasn’t changed at all.
Outside the theater, the sidewalk is still blocked by metal barricades, but it has become a permanent shrine to the victims, bearing dozens of bouquets and single white roses between its bars.
The 150-year-old theater will reopen its doors Nov. 13 with show benefiting charities Life for Paris and 13 Novembre: Fraternite Verite, before a formal remembrance ceremony Sunday with French president Francois Hollande.
It’s not a moment too soon for the bars and restaurants the border the theater. “I’m really happy it’s reopening, because we would have hundreds of people pass through on a night when there was a show, and business was good,” said Pascal, the owner of neighboring ironic rock bar Aperock blaring ’70s standards while patrons play foosball.
He said the bar stayed shuttered for days after the attack, and while the neighborhood has been supportive since it reopened, he says having the Bataclan back will boost the bar. “The concert crowd is our business,” he said.
But for one Aperock patron it was an emotional night, the first time he returned since the night of the attacks. “It took me a year to come back to this neighborhood,” he said, asking to remain anonymous. He had been with a group of seven inside the theater. All his friends survived, one with severe injuries, and he was reticent to remember.
“I think it should be destroyed,” he said, “or it will become a shrine for ghouls.”
Still, with the reopening imminent, he was glad Sting would be the opening act. “At least he stepped up. Others were all saying, ‘We’ll play Paris,’ but no one had the guts to do it,” he said. “But at least it’s not Pete Doherty [opening],” he said.
Doherty will play on Nov. 16, but had been the first billed act before Sting was announced last Friday.
For the owners of Hardy, a Brooklyn-style burger bar complete with subway tile and chalk drawn sayings like “Go Hard or Go Home” scrawled on the wall, the opening will mark their three-month birthday. It’s been up and down for the new business, which opened as an “act of resistance,” and they’re hoping the reopening revives the neighborhood.
“We’re working with everyone nearby to cooperate, because it’s a cultural point of the area. The music scene is the area,” said owner Fred.
At Candelaria, a few blocks more firmly in the Marais, manager Ivan said that business has been slow but steady until September, and they’ve felt a big boost back within the last month. “At the beginning it was really, really hard. We didn’t see [a slowdown] because in this neighborhood things are always opening and closing with a lot of new restaurants and bars and AirBnbs, and we stayed busy, but we could feel it emotionally all over the neighborhood and the city.”
Tourism in general has taken a hit in Paris, down 15 percent over the past year.
“It felt a bit quieter right after, but overall it bounced back pretty quickly,” said one fashion photographer that lives in the neighborhood. “Everyone was devastated of course by what happened, and people could have been quite fearful, but to me it seemed that most people chose to not let it stop them from living their life, going out and carrying on.”
At the bustling boutique/bookstore/café Merci, which sits on the chic Boulevard Beaumarchais just down the street from APC, Acne Studios, Melinda Gloss and Maison Kitsune, two American tourists settling in for afternoon coffee said they didn’t realize they were so close to the theater. From inside Merci’s packed floors, and on the right side of the invisible line that divides the street into the posher 3rd arrondissiment and the scruffier 11th, you wouldn’t know.
The Bataclan itself sits on a rather industrial stretch of the Boulevard Voltaire, flanked by a laundromat, gas station, and nondescript kebab restaurant, and across from the Daffy motorcycle repair shop, a stark contrast from the chic boulevard at its back.
The colorful Chinese style building is an anomaly in the area, even all of Paris, with its red, green and yellow façade. A year on, it has been completely renovated inside and will first open its doors for Sting’s Saturday night set.
“It’s been a year, it’s been closed for a long time,” said Mathieu, the bartender at local darts and dinner spot Le Barometre. “I’m not worried, I’m cool. It’s cool. It’s what makes this whole neighborhood cool.”