Diners at clandestine Paris soiree fined for lockdown breaches

FILE PHOTO: French police officers inspect a restaurant during a nationwide curfew, from 6 p.m to 6 a.m, due to tighter measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Paris, France, February 5, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - More than 110 people dining at a clandestine restaurant were fined late on Friday for violating a COVID-19 lockdown, Paris police said, days after the government denied allegations that ministers had attended similar underground soirees.

The swoop in the French capital's 19th arrondissement was the latest police action against restaurants breaking the rules to offer patrons a slice of pre-pandemic life.

Restaurants, bars and cafes have been closed for sit-down dining for months, and public frustration is growing amid a third national lockdown and another wave of coronavirus infections.

"Guests fined for failing to respect sanitary measures. Organiser and manager arrested," the city's police force said on Twitter.

In a separate incident, dozens of diners were sanctioned for eating out at a restaurant in the Paris suburb of Saint-Ouen at Friday lunchtime.

President Emmanuel Macron's government rejected allegations aired on the private M6 television station by a flamboyant businessman, who said earlier this week that he had hosted several illicit dinner parties attended by ministers.

The businessman, Pierre-Jean Chalencon, later retracted his remarks about the ministers' presence, but the matter has continued to hound the government.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news conference on Thursday the government had no reason to think any minister had attended an unlawful dinner party.

Chalencon was briefly detained by police for questioning on Friday, but played down the incident.

"The police are marvellous people," he told reporters. "It was nothing more than a simple questioning."

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Helen Popper)

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