Saint-Ouen flea market traders protest against British duke's rent hikes
5 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - Traders at Paris's famous Saint-Ouen flea market have launched a protest against their British landlord, the Duke of Westminster, who they accused Thursday of driving them out of business with exorbitant rent hikes.
5 October 2007
PARIS (AFP) - Traders at Paris's famous Saint-Ouen flea market have launched a protest against their British landlord, the Duke of Westminster, who they accused Thursday of driving them out of business with exorbitant rent hikes.
To mark the start of a World Antiques Fair Friday, more than 400 stall-holders at the market on the northern Paris outskirts are to wear black T-shirts bearing the slogan "Your flea-markets in danger", according to a statement sent to AFP.
The Duke of Westminster -- one of Britain's richest men -- acquired the Serpette and Paul-Bert sections of the 120 year-old Saint-Ouen market in 2005. In 2004 the combined rental values of the 420 pitches there amounted to 3.6 million euros (five million dollars).
The traders condemned "the landlord's anarchic system of management and his desire to impose exorbitant rents." This was especially unwelcome as the antiques market was already in the doldrums as a result of the strength of the euro against the dollar, they said.
"It is to be feared that the traditional flea-market will be transformed in time into a luxury market like the 'Louvre des Antiquaires", they said, referring to an expensive antiques arcade in central Paris.
Eric Hauterive, a lawyer acting for the traders, said rents had gone up between 35 and 70 percent.
However the duke's company Grosvenor Continental Europe said in a statement that "only a few tenants who failed to respect their contractual obligations have received letters of non-renewal."
Every weekend some 150,000 visitors crowd into the windy lanes of the Saint-Ouen antique and bric-a-brac markets, which are described as the biggest in the world.
Subject: French news