Not enough, ahem, butts in nud­ist res­tau­rant

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS I WORLD - TIM CAR­MAN

HOST at O’na­turel in Paris to cou­ple: “May I take your coats?”

Hus­band: “Yes, that would be per­fect. Thank you.”

Host (try­ing to sound dig­ni­fied): “May I take your skirt, blouse, shirt and pants, too?”

Wife: (slightly em­bar­rassed): “Oh, right, of course.”

Host (try­ing not to stare): “And may I take your un­der­gar­ments?”

Hus­band (steal­ing his clothes back from the host and flee­ing to the near­est re­stroom): “I can’t do it! I can’t eat din­ner wear­ing only a nap­kin on my lap!”

As far as I know, no such scene has ever taken place at O’na­turel, the first full-time nud­ist res­tau­rant in Paris, a city known for ac­com­mo­dat­ing those who let it all hang out. But some kind of fear has kept din­ers away from O’na­turel, be­cause the place will soon be­come the first full-time nud­ist res­tau­rant in Paris to kiss its — well, you know what — good­bye.

The own­ers re­cently an­nounced that O’na­turel would bid au revoir on Feb. 16, af­ter a 15-month run in the City of Light. As to the cause of the clo­sure, the New York Post may have stated it most suc­cinctly: the res­tau­rant couldn’t put “butts in seats.”

“We’re shut­ting down be­cause we didn’t have enough clients. We would have pre­ferred this ad­ven­ture to go on for longer,” the founders, Mike and Stephane Saada, told the Guardian ina state­ment.

The Saadas are twin broth­ers who opened O’na­turel in Novem­ber 2017. They’re not nud­ists them­selves, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle pub­lished shortly af­ter the res­tau­rant opened, but they sup­pos­edly knew how to ex­ploit an open­ing in the na­tur­ism mar­ket. Nud­ists in Paris could visit mu­se­ums, go bowl­ing and go swim­ming. But they had no full-time res­tau­rant to call their own un­til O’na­turel re­vealed it­self.

There are rules, of course, to din­ing at O’na­turel, where the snails are sauced but the din­ers are naked. Pa­trons un­dress in a cloak­room, where they must leave their clothes and their phones/cam­eras. The lat­ter is in­sur­ance that no un­wanted pho­tos find their way onto the in­ter­net. (Sure enough, the res­tau­rant’s TripAd­vi­sor page has ex­actly zero pho­tos — and only five re­views and two com­ments, which may tell you some­thing about the place’s draw.)

The servers and cooks, I should note, re­main fully clothed here, as re­quired by health codes and by ev­ery diner who doesn’t want to guess the ori­gin of the hair in their soup.

The broth­ers try to screen cus­tomers be­fore they ever set foot in the res­tau­rant, to bet­ter keep the voyeurs and pickup artists at bay.

“We might re­ject some­one, or ex­plain to them that if they’re look­ing to hook up, they should go some­where else,” Stephane told the Lo­cal France.

Even with the ap­par­ently grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of nud­ists in France, it’s not dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that O’na­turel had a small pool (hot tub?) of pa­trons to draw from: those who feel com­fort­able din­ing in the al­to­gether. Na­tur­ists typ­i­cally iden­tify with the free­dom as­so­ci­ated with shed­ding their clothes, which lib­er­ates them from the usual mark­ers of class, fash­ion and trends. Or they may see na­tur­ism as a kind of fem­i­nist state­ment — to walk naked with­out the un­wanted at­ten­tion of the male gaze — or even as a com­ment on our lost con­nec­tion to the nat­u­ral world.

But din­ing naked may be too ar­ti­fi­cial, too ob­vi­ous. It may make ex­plicit what is al­ready im­plicit at the din­ner table: eat­ing is a sen­sual act, maybe even an erotic one. Hol­ly­wood has known for decades, most fa­mously with the great comic din­ing scene in Tom Jones. Or maybe, as one woman told the Daily Mail af­ter din­ing at Lon­don’s na­tur­ist res­tau­rant Bun­yadi, she felt more naked with­out her phone than eat­ing naked.

I mean, there could be 101 rea­sons O’na­turel is go­ing toes up, such as:

No one could stom­ach the guy who belted out Ra­dio­head’s Creep dur­ing Nude Karaoke Nights.

No one wanted to bend over to fetch a dropped nap­kin.

Hot cof­fee spills turned into emer­gency room vis­its.

Own­ers couldn’t find any­one to clean the black seat cov­ers, which were changed be­tween seat­ings.

Servers kept re­mind­ing male din­ers about the no-scratch­ing rule.

Pro­vide your own joke here.

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