Posts Tagged ‘party’


August 15, 2010

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez

PARIS — Of all the places to part with fistfuls of money in St.-Tropez, few have more cachet than Le Club 55.
Perched on the white stretches of Pampelonne, one of the Côte d’Azur’s most stunning beaches, Le Club offers a private patch of sand where habitués can pay around $255 a day to rent a couple of lounge chairs with an umbrella and enjoy a light lunch — not including wine.
But that traditional St.-Tropez luxury is in danger of being upended there, and at 27 other clubs and restaurants that have catered for decades to famous Côte d’Azur visitors from Brigitte Bardot to Paris Hilton.
The mayor’s office says the establishments pose a threat to the environment. Officials have proposed dismantling existing beach amenities and shrinking the area allotted for private beaches to protect delicate flora and what officials say are dunes worn down by the crush of manicured feet. As a result, despite the August atmosphere of hedonism, an unusual air of rebellion is stirring in St.-Tropez, with businesses contemplating their first ever “strike.”
“It’s completely stupid — everybody thinks so,” said Patrice de Colmont, the owner of Le Club 55 and a leader of the local fight against the government’s plans.
“If we said buildings in Paris couldn’t be above a certain height you wouldn’t cut off the top of the Eiffel Tower,” Mr. de Colmont said. “Well, this is the Eiffel Tower of the French Riviera.”
The mayor is seeking a compromise, but has not backed down. The town hall at Ramatuelle, where Pampelonne is situated, is planning to open its doors, starting Monday, to receive comments from the public.
“We all want to be here for the long term,” said Guy Martin, the chief of staff for Mayor Roland Bruno. “That’s why we need to make sure there’s a sustainable equilibrium between the environment and the community.”
Like much in France, though, the dispute is not so simple. Opponents of the move claim that it is really an effort to clear the way for big, well-connected companies to move in on the local businesses’ turf. Officials respond that the ruckus being raised by Mr. de Colmont and his colleagues is mostly in defense of their own form of crass commercialism.
French law prohibits private development on public beaches. But decades ago, residents built on Pampelonne by obtaining renewable one-year permits that allowed them to offer “public services,” like Jet Ski rentals and lifeguards, if the construction was dismantled when the contract expired.
If applying annually for permits was a nuisance, it at least protected small business owners, since no large company was willing to put up with the risk of losing a substantial investment, said Carole Balligand, the chairwoman of Save Pampelonne, a group that represents the local businesses that are in danger.
From the government’s perspective, however, all the activity stemming from the permits has hastened the erosion of an important dune on Pampelonne filled with rare native plant species. In 1986, the French Parliament passed a law to restore the area. Four years ago it ordered those in the area to strike a better balance between the environment and commercial activity.
Under the government’s plan, the commercial operators would be allowed on 20 percent of the beach rather than 30 percent, meaning their plots would be reduced to 23 from 28. As for the dune, it would be cordoned off to let nature do its work.
Local people are upset at another proposal, to require commercial beach activities to end on Sept. 1 every year — still the high season — rather than sometime in October, and to allow new businesses that build behind the restored dune 10-year operating permits. That, they suspect, is less about protecting the environment than attracting mass vacation companies with deep pockets, like Club Med.
What is more, Mrs. Balligand’s group, after digging up photos from the Allied landing on Pampelonne beach in August 1944, contends that no large dune ever existed. She accuses the government of using environmental arguments as an excuse to bring in bigger businesses.
In summer, about 20,000 people frolic on Pampelonne beach every day. While Paris and Nicky Hilton, Tina Turner, Bono and a constellation of other stars frequent its playground, so have a number of international artists, intellectuals and politicians. Many mix with the coterie of low-key, wealthy local residents whose families were here well before Ms. Bardot put Pampelonne on the map in the 1956 French film “And God Created Woman.”
Before Ms. Bardot, St.-Tropez was more like the Saint-Germain des Prés quarter of 1920s Paris. It was an eclectic beach town that drew few rich people. These days, “the gulf of St.-Tropez is covered with yachts, pretty much all of which are registered in tax havens,” Mr. Martin said.
The prospect of losing those clients and their free-flowing cash has Mr. de Colmont alarmed. His private beach plot is small, but it has been the stuff of legend ever since Ms. Bardot and the director Roger Vadim came during filming to seek food at what was then an outdoor dining table set up by Mr. de Colmont’s father for his family.
Last Thursday, Mr. de Colmont called off his planned one-day strike, he said, after the mayor’s office gathered him and other residents to discuss the matter “more reasonably.” But he is not ruling out a shutdown if the government digs in.
As he presses his fight, Mr. de Colmont will have at least one heavy hitter at his side. “Joan Collins left me a message the other day to ask what she could do to support me,” he said. “She has proposed to come give her point of view” to the mayor.
Such celebrities, of course, attract plenty of gawkers. Mr. de Colmont wants to be sure that the riffraff doesn’t get out of control, scaring the big spenders away. On a recent day, he said, 300 clients paid to use the amenities on Le Club 55’s plot, while only 100 people sat on the larger public beach next to his. “I would prefer,” he said, “not to have Club Med people crowding out those who are already here.”

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez –


Behold brilliant Beirut

By Tyler Brûlé
Published: August 14 2010 00:47 | Last updated: August 14 2010 00:47
The last week has been something of a hot, hazy blur. When I landed in Beirut on Wednesday, the air over the city was so thick and heavy that it felt as if I were being pushed downwards through the soft, mushy pavement. Still, a super-humid evening didn’t stop us (me, Mom, Mats, my magazine colleagues Todd, Bruce and new friend Moritz) from co-hosting a party at Papercup in Mar Mikhael, commandeering a wonderful new Armenian restaurant a few streets away and then enjoying the crowd, fire-show, sounds, sparklers and impossibly large bottles of vodka at Skybar above Beirut’s harbour.
While the quick stop in Lebanon was mostly work, it also marked the official handover of the flat I fell for back in May. If you caught the dispatch from my trip in early June, you’ll recall that I found two flats in the Ashrafieh district but hadn’t managed to secure the one I wanted before I departed.
Fortunately, I now have the keys to the better of the two and have set to work scouring the city’s market, galleries, antique dealers and rubbish heaps for choice pieces to populate the terrace, reception rooms and hotel-size kitchen. My friend Kamal bundled me into his car before I left to select the essentials for the kitchen, and assured me that anything I couldn’t find in the country could be easily made. “Whatever you want,” he said. “Furniture for the terrace, deep sofas for lounging, bed-linen, lamps, storage units. We still know how to make things here.”
Aside from Lebanon’s winning sense of hospitality and an anything-goes lifestyle (elements that should be at the cornerstone of its tourism campaign), it’s the rich culture of craft that makes it a potentially interesting case-study for a country at the cross-roads of Europe and Asia.
A lack of investment in basic infrastructure over the past three decades has turned into a bonus for everyone from book publishers to furniture designers. A young woman who has a stationery business is able to print and hone her craft in the suburbs of Beirut on machines that were long ago replaced by digital equipment in more developed economies. The final product is luxurious and wonderfully tactile – and also incredibly rare.
Across town in Hamra, a furniture gallery that deals in pieces from Jean Royère has started adapting the designs of the respected French furniture designer from the 1950s and launched a local production facility. Boomerang-style tables that have been altered for 21st-century living are covered in plastic laminates that would have been consigned to the bin decades ago but are still found in warehouses around the country. Indeed, small-scale Lebanese furniture manufacturers are now winning jobs that might have otherwise gone to factories in China.
If Turkey is focused on going for volume when it comes to manufacturing clothes, furniture and houseware, then “Made in Lebanon” could become a mark of quality for ceramics, tailored garments, printing, food, even footwear. Lina Audi’s Liwan brand, L’Artisan du Liban, Orient 499, the couture of Rabih Kayrouz, the rustic leather goods of Johnny Farah, Rouba Mourtada’s stationery and Karim Bekdaches’ storage systems are all examples of businesses that combine Lebanese design talent with homegrown manufacturing.
The country has plenty to fix, but a focus on encouraging a culture of craft, which not only bolsters the small and medium-sized business sector but also maintains a sustainable base that allows for a differentiated tourism experience, is a good place to start building. It also puts Beirut in a unique position across the whole region (save for Syria perhaps) by offering up products and experiences that are wholly original.
As more restaurants pop up and hotels start to emerge from the ruins of derelict buildings, Lebanon will need to decide what type of tourists it wants to attract and how it will get them there. For the moment, and not through engineering, it’s a premium destination that’s avoided the hen-party and stag-weekend set or package tours in search of cheap buffets.
Two weeks ago, the government announced an expansion plan that will see the airport almost double in size. As there seemed to be some excitement about building an infrastructure to support big A380s, the government and Lebanon Inc would be wise also to ensure that they support their home-grown carrier MEA (Middle East Airlines) – something of a national treasure. One of my most memorable flights was the first time I flew with them in 1991 from Heathrow to Beirut where the service included a Sunday roast trolley – complete with huge carving utensils and chic flight attendants who smoked in the galley. On my MEA flight to Abu Dhabi last Sunday, I was greeted by an elegant woman with a French twist, deep tan and smoky voice who looked like a poster lady for the “golden age of flying” – and she was. All that was missing was the cigarette.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle
More columns at / Columnists / Tyler Brûlé – Behold brilliant Beirut

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