We're on holiday in France, where many restaurants are seen having a terrace (an outside seating area). Given many restaurants, at least all over smaller towns in Bretagne, close between like 14:00 and 17:00, you might be rejected when you ask to be seated between 13:00 and 14:00, as the kitchen is already closing up.
Understandable so far, but when closure is obviously not the case, why won't a restaurant with a half empty terrace accept you for just drinks?
It's either food and drinks (sometimes they even require three courses or you're not welcome) or nothing at all. Waiters will even act offended when you tell them you're there for just drinks or a coffee: "We're not a bar!", they'll say.
I understand that, it says so right there on the façade, but I can buy a postcard at the book shop without buying a book. The restaurant has a bar, and it's making coffee for other guests, so they're perfectly able to.
Additional details to clarify:
- We have explicitly mentioned we wanted to drink coffee, so non-alcoholic.
- It happened around 30-60 minutes before the posted closing time (say 13:15 when the restaurant closed at 14:00).
- There were other people eating or being served food, and there were drinks (including coffee) being served.
- In one instance the waitress sat us down and started setting the table, but when we mentioned that we just wanted to drink a coffee, she started removing the glasses and the cutlery again and sent us away, stating they were "not a bar".
- There was plenty of room on the terrace as well as inside the restaurants.
- I'm not taking about "high-end" restaurants, i.e. they don't have a dress code, they serve non-fancy food, they have folding chairs and paper placemats, their waiters don't wear suits.
- It happened on multiple occasions, either when sitting down by ourselves (no waiter in sight) or when asking a waiter.
So my question is: what's the reason for this strict distinction between restaurants and bars? I have not seen this in any other place, having been all over Europe.
I'm used to any food and/or drinks serving place, having a terrace with empty seats, happily serving you a drink in exchange for your money.