La Voile Rouge, beach restaurant to the international glitterati in Saint-Tropez for 32 years, will be demolished today as part of a drive to cleanse the French Riviera of ugly and noisy commercial intrusions.
The bar-restaurant, built illegally on the beach but long tolerated, was a favourite summer haunt of actors and pop stars, from Charles Aznavour to the Spice Girls. It will be bulldozed because of complaints from neighbours about the volume of the music and the sound of helicopters carrying the rich and famous to and from the celebrated Pampelonne beach at all times of the night.
"Why me?" bemoaned Paul Tomiselli, 61, the owner of the Voile Rouge (red sail) yesterday. "I am one of the originals, one of the glories of the place. Who invented the fashion for bare breasts in Saint-Tropez? I did. The string? Me. We've had everyone here. Stallone, Jane Fonda, De Niro, Liza Minnelli, [Roger] Vadim, Johnny [Hallyday], Geri of the Spice Girls, Aznavour, Rostropovic, Mick Jagger." Rostropovic? No wonder the neighbours complained about the noise.
The local council ordered on 24 March that the restaurant must not only close but be completely demolished by today because of "multiple sonorous nuisances" and infringements of the building regulations. The restaurant, known in French as a paillote (straw hut) but actually made of concrete and wood, has already been largely dismantled.
Mr Tomaselli sought a stay of execution, claiming he had been victimised by local politicians, but Daniel Canepa, the senior national government representative in the Var dÃ©partement, was adamant. "If these establishments are allowed to develop unchecked, they will destroy the beauty which made the Pampelonne beach popular," Mr Canepa said. "If we don't take these beaches in hand, they will end up being nothing but a row of luxury chip stalls."
The proprietor of the Voile Rouge takes exception to this description. He prefers to think of his bar as a "genuine experiment in sexual philosophy, where surreal things happened, like people dancing on the bar, while gazing at the sea." Mr Tomaselli has not given up. He is hoping to get planning permission for another bar, 100 metres back from the beach.