Heart of Bezons’ false start leaves traders in dire straits: ‘We got a little sleepy’

A poster that makes noise. On the evening of December 23, the Bistrot Regent restaurant in Bezons, in the city center, closed its doors. “The restaurant will be closed until the opening of the cinema and all the shops that lease the building,” said a note left on the door.

The manager, who invited his customers to return to his other establishment of the same brand in Houilles, Yvelines, believes that the area is not suitable for the project announced when the lease was signed. “It’s stationary, but we can only go on when we have flow,” explains manager Karim Boucine.

“Heart of the City” is a large-scale project started during the previous term of office. It announced more than 700 residential buildings with 30% public housing, around 50 shops, a cinema, a public car park and a multi-purpose hall. Built by promoter Altarea at a cost of around €250 million, it opened last March with few changes since its arrival. The most significant one concerns the cinema: the UGC group, which was supposed to manage this five-screen enterprise, withdrew from the project.

The restaurant Bistro Régent was temporarily closed due to insufficient traffic. LP/TC

Presenting itself as an open-air shopping center, very few people visit the district at present. Almost all of the stores were expected to close by the end of 2022, but many are still closed. “This is a brand that needs to flow. We cannot exist with what we currently have, laments Karim Boucine. We have to find solutions. He believes that most other merchants on the site face the same challenges.

Of the roughly 50 stores, 31 are currently open, according to the building's owner, promoter Altarea.
Of the roughly 50 stores, 31 are currently open, according to the building’s owner, promoter Altarea. LP/TC

At Bistro Régent’s neighbor, Le Phare de Saint-Louis crepe, we observe the same. “The financial situation is very sensitive. There is no participation, “recognizes Guillaume Felten, the general manager of this channel. He remembers that some advertised brands, such as Boulanger, were not installed. “They withdrew. We only found out about it after it was installed,” he adds.

“We got a little sleepy,” said the manager of another restaurant. “We’re all the same: it’s hard to make ends meet,” admits Linda, manager of ready-to-wear boutique Nos. This summer saw an influx of customers from the Hauts-de-Seine. “They couldn’t wait to see the other stores open,” he recalls. But they didn’t come back.

“There must be real communication. We should have signs showing where the shops are, “he judges. However, some businesses look good. Chocolate maker Jeff de Bruges was busy over the holidays.

The 7-room cinema was supposed to be run by UGC, but the group dropped the project.
The 7-room cinema was supposed to be run by UGC, but the group dropped the project. LP/TC

Contacted by Le Parisien, promoter Altarea says 31 stores are currently open. “They will open with a variety of commercial programs in the coming months,” the spokesperson said. He confirms that the operator, who has been working on the film project since 2015, withdrew during the pandemic.

“To date, and despite much intensive research, no other operator has been identified,” he said. It says support solutions are being offered to brands affected by this outage. The manager of Bistro Regent confirms that he has received an offer to reduce the rent.

Is the future better because of Bettencourt park?

The town hall reminds that the shops in the city center are part of the private domain. “The retrocession of public places has been refused. The municipality considered that the realization did not reach the expected level of quality, “the cabinet notes. The latter indicates that a few weeks ago it asked the promoter to find a solution for the cinema, but it adds that the municipality does not intend to cover the losses of the private operator. “This cinema it’s a space designed to create. We can’t do anything else,” he recalls.

Another difficulty is that the project to install a Megarama has been given the green light in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, and the permission to open a cinema in Bezons will only last until October 31, 2023. the city will find its equilibrium over time and businesses will be able to benefit from the completion of Bettencourt Park and its sports field in the first quarter of 2023.

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