This is the end of an era on the French Riviera. La Plage des Jumeaux, and more than a dozen other iconic beach-restaurants of the Saint-Tropez bay area, are to close at the end of the summer to be replaced by restaurants owned and managed by a handful of Saint-Tropez palaces.
Every summer since the late 1950’s, the Pampelonne beach, a 4.5 km long sand-strip located in Ramatuelle, next to the village of Saint-Tropez, morphs into the world capital of entertainment and luxury.
The 26 beach-restaurants of Pampelonne each have their own style and atmosphere, forged over more than half a century of wild parties that brought together – as an ever repeated miracle – an intriguing mix of celebrities, international jet-setters, as well as quite a few regular people.
For decades, this mix of characters and cultures has been the trademark of Pampelonne beach-restaurants. Notably, La Plage des Jumeaux, which actress Brigitte Bardot, who put Saint-Tropez on the map in the late 1950’s flick “And God created woman”, once described as “different, fun, non-conformist and a symbol of freedom”.
La Plage des Jumeaux, a family-owned restaurant which opened in 1987, is as typical of Pampelonne as it gets. The Moreu family, who created the space and still manage the restaurant, has very close ties with the world of contemporary art. They are the instigators of “L’Art à la Plage” (Art at the Beach), a returning art exposition where art pieces are exposed right in the sand of the Pampelonne beach.
In a very quintessential Saint-Tropez atmosphere, people have lunch in their bathing suits next to major art pieces from some of the world most-renowned artists such as Dubuffet, César, Arman, and many others… Very much the decadent, yet exquisite, vibe that makes Saint-Tropez so unique.
Apparently, the city of Ramatuelle does not care much about art, history, and legacy. The mayor, Bruno Roland, has other plans for the Pampelonne beach. The beach-front leases of Pampelonne have just been re-allocated. Large hotel groups won almost all the tenders.
They paid big money to put their hands on a portion of the beach… and thus to be able to guarantee beach access to their clients. Historical restaurant owners could not compete against offers that made no economic sense. Hotels want their share of the beach so they can improve their occupancy rates. Nothing more, nothing less.
If this approach makes sense on the short-term, it could as well be a miscalculation on the long run. What makes Saint-Tropez a destination like no other is also the experience and know-how of the people who made the Pampelonne beach one of the world’s summer hotspots.
It is quite risky to wipe out a sixty-year old success-story and expect to get the same results with a beach made-out of charmless generic restaurants that will only be annexes of big hotels from Saint-Tropez.