Stéphane Manigold, president of Maison Rostang, Groupe Eclore, sent on April 16, 2020 to the Commercial Court of Paris a request for provisional formal notice against AXA France after the insurer refused to compensate the losses of operation following the administrative closure of one of its restaurants. - AFP

A Parisian restaurateur won a first victory against his insurer, Axa, who refused to compensate for his losses related to the health crisis, but the company puts into perspective the extent of this decision while insurers and restaurateurs persist in deferring the bill.

"This is a great moment for all the big and small bosses who suffer (...) We faced a multinational, and we won," said restaurateur Stéphane Manigold on Friday at the Bistrot next door Flaubert, one of its establishments. At the end of an emergency summary procedure, the Paris Commercial Court had ruled in favor of the restaurateur.

An “explosive” position

Stéphane Manigold believed that Axa was evading its obligations regarding the four establishments that it manages in Paris.

He had signed a contract which provided for compensation for its operating losses in the event of administrative closure and therefore asked to benefit from it in the context of the general closure of restaurants since mid-March in the face of the coronavirus crisis. But the insurer refused. According to him, the contract concerns the isolated closure of a restaurant by the authorities, and not a general measure like that decided in the face of the pandemic.

Calling this position "explosive", Stéphane Manigold had launched legal proceedings for the only Bistro next door Flaubert, even if a similar contract is signed with Axa for the three other restaurants.

Two and a half months of losses to be compensated

The insurer was ordered to pay two and a half months of operating losses calculated on the gross margin of the restaurant, "or 70,000 euros," said Stéphane Manigold, stressing that Axa also had to pay 5,000 euros in compensation.

But the insurer "will appeal the decision, simply because it was taken in an emergency, without debate on the merits," announced to AFP Eric Le Maire, director of communication of the branch French of Axa. It noted that the interim decision was by nature only provisional.

Axa has, in any event, downplayed the magnitude of this decision, ruling out any snowball effect on other restaurateurs, even in the event of a final defeat.

An example and a hope for restaurateurs

Generally, professionals sign contracts that only compensate for damage, not business interruption. At Axa, only 18,000 contracts provide for the repayment of these loans. Even among the latter, "99% of contracts today have a clause which clearly excludes the pandemic," reports Bruno Le Maire.

However, he explains that Axa has automatically compensated a few hundred policyholders for whom the clauses were "badly drafted". But, for the insurer, Stéphane Manigold is not one of them. Unlike Axa, the restaurant industry hopes that the victorious restaurateur will serve as an example for his colleagues.

"This decision gives hope to all the restaurateurs in France who have the same contract, and who will go to see their insurer," Didier Chenet, president of the employers' association of hotel and restaurant independents, told AFP. (GNI), present alongside Stéphane Manigold.

Losses estimated at 60 billion euros

For weeks, hoteliers-restaurateurs and insurers have been in the middle of a deaf dialogue, the insurance sector opposing, with a few exceptions, a refusal to accept requests for coverage of operating losses linked to the epidemic of Covid-19. Because the hotel and catering industry would like a massive and general reimbursement of operating losses, even when the contracts do not provide for it.

According to the majority of insurers, the losses linked to the coronavirus are too heavy to be covered. Their federation, the FFA, values ​​them at 60 billion euros. If negotiations have been started between the FFA and the hotel and restaurant owners, the latter consider the results obtained to be clearly insufficient.

Reopening from June 2

Friday, starred chefs like Gérald Passédat, Marc Veyrat, Michel Saran and Gilles Goujon still asked insurance companies to reimburse "the operating loss for all up to 15 to 25%", as well as "a guarantee fund" health catastrophe "", in a letter sent to AFP. Restaurants and cafetiers will know at the end of May if they can reopen from June 2 in the departments classified as "green".

Some 55,000 establishments in the cafes, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs sector - out of 94,000 tourist businesses - have already applied for and obtained a loan guaranteed by the State, in addition to recourse to partial unemployment and the Solidarity Fund.


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