When arriving in front of the Georges-Dumont establishment, in Abbeville (Somme), the visitor comes across an imposing flowered forecourt. If he enters, he will have to walk through a long colorful corridor which will immerse him in the cozy atmosphere of a classic nursing home. But on some days, his ear will suddenly be attracted by a joyous hubbub. And if he pushes to the end of the two central aisles, he will come across Chez Georges, a bar that is full. Georges, named after the doctor who bequeathed his fortune to the establishment in the 19th century.
The bistro opened in March and is already the essential place where residents, visitors and nursing staff meet. Card games, quizzes, crossword puzzles… the various activities are in full swing. This Friday afternoon, it’s foosball. Michelle, 74, sips her peach diabolo while encouraging her friend Yvan: “He won the two previous tournaments, he has every chance,” she smiles. Today, the jukebox is off, but lively music accompanies the laughter and discussion.
Leaning on the counter to drink his coffee, Laurent Douchin, senior health manager at the geriatrics center behind the project, is enthusiastic: “The bistro meets a need that we had underestimated: beyond the possibility to share a drink around a table, some of our residents come out of isolation.” While sorting her dominoes, Lisianne, 73, smiles and confesses: alone in her room, she is depressed. The coffee changes his mind. Open from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. five days a week, the place is a resounding success. Every day, between 70 and 100 drinks are sold.
Management is entrusted to the association created exclusively for the bar: Happy’Amy. Employees of the Ehpad have retrained to ensure the continuity of the project. And small actions like a garage sale have brought in cash. On the completely alcohol-free menu, the price of drinks varies from fifty cents to two euros twenty. “Seated in the bar, our residents are customers, they regain a financial autonomy that they often lose when they leave their house”, specifies Laurent Douchin. All the profits are reinjected for the benefit of the residents: Christmas decorations, outing to the Rouen Armada, garden tools… The staff is not lacking in inspiration.
“The prices for drinks are moderate. And it’s much more pleasant to drink your coffee in a real cup, sitting at a table, rather than standing in front of a coffee machine”, says Valérie, who came to visit her father, Marc, who, very moved, lets a tear run down his cheek. The octogenarian expresses himself with difficulty, but his daughter guesses it, the bistro reminds him of memories of youth. “We find the atmosphere of tobacco bars, anchored in French culture. We learn to know each other better and to confide in each other”, adds Cédric. The teaser host provides the atmosphere alongside Sabine and Émilie. The former bistro in Pont-Remy, about ten kilometers away, has also found a former client, Richard, who now lives at the Ehpad. The two men relive the village atmosphere they knew at the Georges-Dumont retirement home, the nursing home also having a hairdresser and a chapel in which mass is celebrated every other Friday.
The good-natured atmosphere of the bar also benefits the members of staff who come there regularly to take their break. “Certain work-related situations are resolved here, this place of decompartmentalisation breaks down certain barriers”, rejoices Sébastien Gosselin, the director of the establishment.
Meanwhile, at the café, Martine, a former nursing assistant converted into a bartender, is busy. From one table to another, she takes orders, brings drinks, manages receipts… The pace is steady, but Martine always keeps a few minutes to chat with customers. “Some confide their worries, their pain, but also their joy. When it is necessary to close, they find it difficult to leave,” she says. After 5:30 p.m., the iron curtain slowly lowers. The discussions started continue despite the empty glasses. No doubt, the benefits of the Chez Georges bistro are above all human.
Recipes for success
Efficiency: To bring the bar to life, the employees of the establishment have created an association, Happy’Amy, which manages stocks, cash…
Autonomy: Everyone is free to come, consume or participate in the activities. At the bistro, the residents are real customers: they pay for their drink. Regularly, one of them insists on offering “his tour”; financial independence is regained.
A virtuous circle: The drinks are sold at almost cost price, but the few profits generated are immediately reinvested. Moreover, projects abound: the enclosure of the chapel will very soon be transformed into a garden where you can walk.