Closed, Fermé, Fermature, 16 Ways to Be Closed in France

Closed. Fermé.

How can it be closed?

We made a reservation.

Reserved in French is réserver, but it’s often meaningless here. Like the butchers, finding a restaurant that’s open when it’s supposed to be is a crapshoot worthy of an Excel spreadsheet. Even a quick Google search before going out is unreliable. What is reliable is that there  there are as many ways to say “closed” as there are holidays.

Surprise closures abounded recently. In search of a little variety, a friend found a new Cambodian restaurant that she wanted to try. I passed by it and took some photos of the menu for reference. She tried to make a reservation for lunch, but no one answered the phone. 3 days after I took the photos (while they were doing a nice lunch business) we met at the restaurant. “Fermeture exceptionnelle” Monday and Tuesday. No sign of that when I was taking the photos.

Later that week, I met another friend for lunch at a Filipino restaurant. She had booked a 12:30 table online. As I rounded the corner, I saw her scrolling through her phone. The restaurant was closed. A small sign in the door was illegible but could possibly have said any of the following:

16 Ways to Be Closed in France:

  1. Fermeture pour travail: Closed for work
  2. Fermeture temporaire : Temporary closure
  3. Fermeture pour travaux: Closed for work
  4. Fermeture pour cause de maladie : Closed due to illness
  5. Fermeture pour congés annuels: Closed for annual vacation (annual isn’t taken literally, or means more than once a year in French)
  6. Fermeture exceptionnelle: Exceptional closure (except that it happens every time they can take a long weekend—faire le pont)
  7. Fermeture pour congés: Closed for vacation
  8. Fermeture en raison de fermeture: Closed because they are closed
  9. Fermeture pour raisons familiales: Closed for family reasons
  10. Fermeture administrative: Administrative closure (usually for a legal reason).
  11. Fermeture définitive: Permanent closure
  12. Fermeture en raison de la covid: Closed due to Covid
  13. Fermeture pour raison de santé: Closed for health reasons
  14. Congés: Holiday closure
  15. Vacances scolaires: School holidays
  16. Jours fériés: Public holidays (often combined with #6 depending on what day of the week the jour férié falls on). Not to be taken lightly: jours fériés, are an integral part of the rich cultural legacy and history of the nation, not just days off from work and education.”

Sometimes but not always, the signs—generally hand-written on a piece of A4 paper — give a date for the closure and reopening, but even this is subject to change. Several restaurants in my neighborhood have closed for congrés annuels and never bothered to reopen. Guess they were having too much fun to come back.

For whatever reason, the DeGaulle quote about cheese: “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” keeps popping into my head when I see how many ways something can be closed here.

Including the cheese shops.


Thanks to Anna for the grippe photo and Léna for the green door shot. Almost all the photos were shot within 5 blocks from my apartment and in about 3 days.

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