Naked Restaurant Closes Because No One Wants to Eat Naked in Public
Turns out that tourists aren't jazzed to pay up for an experience that's better on the couch at home.
In March, the Association des Naturistes de Paris (Association of Naturists of Paris) made an enthusiastic Facebook post, beaming about the 22,000 people who had double-clicked to show their interest in its small group, all-nude tour of the Palais de Tokyo museum. “This confirms once again, that nudity, the state of mind of nudism and the well-being [it brings] have far wider appeal than we could have ever imagined,” the ANP wrote, according to The Guardian. “We would like to state, loud and clear that the demand is there, in Paris. There are still far too few places where one can get naked.”
Those “far too few places” are the estimated 460 locations where public nudity is permitted, including 155 campgrounds, 73 beaches, parks, recreational facilities, and the occasional museum tour or all-nude bowling tournament. France has more than 2.7 million people who consider themselves to be naturists, and Paris has been called one of the most nudist-friendly cities in Europe. So that’s why it’s somewhat surprising that O’Naturel, Paris’ first and only all-nude restaurant, says it can’t find enough customers to keep its doors open.
The Local reports that O’Naturel will close for good in February, because it hasn’t had enough (bare) butts in on its (hygienically covered) seats. “It is with great regret that we announce the definitive closing of the O'Naturel restaurant on Saturday, February 16, 2019," the restaurant’s owners, Mike and Stéphane Saada, said. “Thank you for having participated in this adventure by coming to dine at O'Naturel. We will only remember the good times, meeting beautiful people and customers who were delighted to share exceptional moments.”
The Saadas—who are twin brothers and not naturists—opened the restaurant in November 2017 in the city’s 12th arrondissement. The restaurant followed a strict code of conduct, which required all diners to be nude (teenagers accompanied by adults were exempt, as were waiters and kitchen staff), expressly prohibited any “exhibitionist behavior or sexist intent,” and required all phones and cameras to stay locked in the changing areas. Each customer was also issued his or her own own all-black chair cover and a pair of slippers.
Laurent Luft, the president of the ANP, told MUNCHIES that the restaurant faced a combination of a bad tourist season and high prices on the menu. “From the onset, the restaurant relied heavily on tourism, as do the majority of eateries in Paris. It was the ditch in tourism in December that greatly affected them, as thousands of tourists cancelled their trips here. I'm sure that many businesses are struggling after two disastrous months,” he said.
“For many locals, menu prices were the reason they didn't go to the restaurant. For the quality of food served, it wasn't expensive but for most Parisians it was out of their budget as a regular haunt. Many people went once and even if they were thrilled with the meal and service, they couldn't afford to return.”
A three-course prix fixe menu was listed at €49 (US $56), but O’Naturel had largely positive reviews online; one TripAdvisor user praised the staff for recommending some gluten-free options.
“Many of our new members discovered naturism for the first time at O'Naturel,” Luft said. “They may have gone just for an unusual experience to tell their grandchildren one day but discovered that they actually felt better naked than clothed and decided to take it further.” (Fittingly, a group of ANP members were among the first guests at the restaurant.)
On Facebook, O’Naturel has asked any would-be naturists to “enjoy a last naked dinner” in Paris, and it will be accepting reservations through its last day. If you don’t make it, though, there’s always nude bowling.