“Chez Francoise” is a discreetly located venue near the French parliament whose visitors’ book boasts signatures from former leaders including Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. Options include a “Menu Parlementaire” – three courses including wild boar pate with chestnuts, veal and crepes suzette.

In late September, as a second wave of COVID-19 infection loomed, government scientific advisers wanted new restrictions on bars, restaurants and cafes.

Fearing his business would suffer, Pascal Mousset, who owns Chez Francoise and four other restaurants in the French capital, decided to seek help from an old contact. “For pity’s sake, don’t close Paris,” Mousset texted to Alain Griset, a junior minister at the finance and economy ministry.

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