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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 has opened a criminal investigation for “endangering others” and “hidden work”.

In a video unearthed by Internet users, the former purchaser of the France 2 program “Affaire concluded” affirmed, in February, his desire to organize dinners within the framework of a private club called “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 various lounges ”.

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, teacher in public law at Sciences Po. or inviting for dinner at home cannot therefore be penalized, as can the failure to apply 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 does not have the right, he falls under the blow of the law”, continues Nicolas Hervieu.

This is precisely the defense of Christophe Leroy, the cook-organizer accused: “The services performed were, as the law allows, in private homes and not in ERP restaurant type.” 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 can in itself make it possible to 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 dine at my place, it is I who invites them, I do not ask them to pay” -, so that the dinner menus, costing several hundred euros, turn on the web.

Penals sanctions

If we can not be fined for a private party – except for the night noise, 68 € -, setting up 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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