In the Allier, the rebirth of the bistro at the end of the world

By Clara Georges and Guillaume Blot

Posted today at 12h00

” The end of the world “, ” a cul-de-sac “ : to listen to the inhabitants of Montcombroux-les-Mines (Allier), it took a good dose of optimism to set up a bistro there in 2020. Add to it the Covid-19, a demographic that stings the nose and “A departmental that leads nowhere”, says the former mayor of the village, and we are getting dangerously close to unconsciousness.

However, Sandra de Barros seems to have her head on her shoulders. At 26, in full confinement, the 26-year-old woman took over La Forge, a former restaurant closed since 2015. “I am from here. I came back from Toulouse, where I lived, to be closer to my family, who I missed. My companion works in public works, so he could change region. ”

All services at once

In the town of 320 inhabitants, there were no longer many services. The grocery store closed in 2016. The school in 2017. With La Forge, Sandra de Barros suddenly reopens: the restaurant (she makes pizzas, salads and platters), the café, a grocery store that sells fruits, vegetables, local and basic products, bread, newspapers, gas … and even a little extracurricular, as Virginie Chaillou, 34, tells us: “On Wednesdays my daughter sometimes goes to Sandra’s to play with her daughter after school and I pick her up. “ Between the tables in the great room, next to the counter, there is also a playpen, for the manager’s little boy, 16 months old – because, to spice up the affair, Sandra de Barros has two small children. . “It’s not easy every day, but I’m having fun”, she comments, with a certain sense of understatement.

Sandra de Barros, owner of the bar La Forge in Montcombroux-les-Mines, in Allier, June 23, 2021. Behind the counter, Océane, her sister-in-law, and Bérénice, a trainee.

It was the 1000 Cafés program that made it possible to reopen the place. Led by the SOS group, an association, it supports municipalities with fewer than 3,500 inhabitants who wish to open or reopen a café, with proposals adapted to local needs. In office from 2008 to 2020, the former mayor Claire Tognon applied for the village (the current mayor did not respond to our requests). The inhabitants of Montcombroux were questioned: they wanted a grocery store, to be able to buy their bread and a place to meet.

“A meeting place. We need it. The people need to play along, because it’s important to all of us. “- Virginie Chaillou

“In a small town, what we are looking for is precisely the link”, explains Virginie Chaillou, mother of three daughters, settled here for nine years. “Before, I was in the Tarn. My husband wanted to give our daughters another living environment, he has always lived in the countryside. When we arrived it was perfect. The school was next to the house. Then everything closed. Chez Sandra is a meeting place. We need it. Every evening, when I walk past, I see people on the terrace. The people need to play along, because it is important to all of us. ”

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