In this section, you can read the complete history of La féria from its creation in 1996 to the present day. Here’s hoping this presentation will answer any questions you might have about us.
Clémence & Stéphan.
Creation of La féria
At the beginning of the 1990s, a new style of bar emerged in French nightlife. A «bar à ambiance musicale» (BAM) was a cross between a bar and a nightclub that you could got to after your evening meal at a restaurant or at home between 10PM and 2AM, before hitting the clubs. The idea was to offer a clubbing scene with drinks at regular bar prices while the night was still young.
In 1996, Bertrand aka Tiger opened a new venue and named it La féria on Cours Lamarque de Plaisance in Arcachon. The beginning of a new era for the festayres, the partying crowd, on the South Side of the Bassin d’Arcachon.
In early 1998, La féria moved to Rue Jehenne also in Arcachon. On October 31st 2005,
the redevelopment of the city centre brought La féria’s Arcachon era to a close.
La féria relocates to Gujan-Mestras
Bertrand had prepared a heartfelt speech to bid a final adieu to La féria and the local night scene. At least, that was what he had planned several weeks earlier as he closed the sale of La féria. However, on the night, so many friends and clients came to have have last drink with him, that he became emotional and hinted that things might not be completely over.
A few days prior to closing night, over drinks at apéro time (when all great projects are born), ideas of an exciting strategic new venue were thrown around. A potential partnership was brought up with Stéphan aka Popeye, a former founding partner of El Callejon , the night bar just next door to La féria. To our clients, it looked like we were competition, but we had always got on well and in the course of time had become firm friends. On many occasions after closing times, we would have drinks together, along with our teams, in one or other of the nightclubs on the South Side of the Bassin. This, of course, was back in the day when Arcachon still had a night scene.
The plan was to partner to buy La canne à sucre in Gujan-Mestras. Stéphan had already been talking with the sellers. The place was rather unusual, well away from homes, in the middle of the forest, by a lake, with a massive car park. The location actually really appealed to Bertrand. He was to stay on board four or five years before selling his shares to his partner and leaving the night scene behind.
In early 2006, the project took shape and the sale of La canne à sucre was closed on May 5th 2006. Thus began the third chapter in the story of La féria, in Gujan-Mestras, on the lac de la Magdeleine.
A step back in time
La canne à sucre was built by Bruno who opened the restaurant at the beginning of the Summer season in 1990. He offered local cuisine of the South West and word of mouth soon had it that no-one left the place hungry.
The restaurant changed hands several times. In 2002, Ruben and Frédéric took over and offered pizza and Italian dishes, but things did not really gel for them so they decided to sell the business in 2005.
The opening date was Friday June 30th 2006. In the new location, La féria now opened at 7 PM and served tapas on an outdoor terrace and boasted an open air bar.
What we believed were cool improvements initially unsettled regular customers who were used to the previously cramped, smoke-filled premises. But soon enough, they came round : Sous les pins, on est bien ! (Life is good under the pine trees)
Out of concern for the comfort and safety of our customers, we added a dog handler to our safety team. His task was to secure the lakefront as alcohol consumption by the water can be risky, especially on Summer nights.
The first month was successful, far beyond our expectations. Incident-free joyful partying until the night of Saturday August 5th. Everything was running smoothly until approximately 1AM when customers reported police were testing drivers for alcohol on the Aqualand roundabout, by the Hyper U supermarket and at the Chemin du Loup junction. We were completely surrounded.
That night was a landmark in our history. A lot of damage was done. Our competitors started a rumour that the area was regularly riddled with police and by the end of that month, we had lost three quarters of our patrons. We continued regardless but 2007 was a very bad year.
Faithful friends would still come by, but unfortunately, that was not enough.
We will never forget the night of August 5th 2005.
It caused us to eventually change our vision and put an end to the night bar era. Thankfully, we had a new plan.
A fresh start
After some tough months with very little income and bad balance sheets, we couldn’t find any help from banks. We resorted to personal funds and rolled up our sleeves. We remodelled the kitchen entirely so that La féria could turn over a new leaf.
We anticipated that Friday July 11th 2008 would be the date of our resurrection with our first dinner service à La féria. A friend had made reservations for a private party of thirty local firefighters who were to test the new setup.
We were under a lot of pressure, as was the staff, so much so that a tray of beers was spilt over a firefighter and the handbag of the lady sitting next to him. We knew them both and the issue was quickly resolved by gifting the gentleman a La féria t-shirt and by washing and drying the lady’s handbag. Everything went smoothly. Serving the main courses was a little slow as is often the case when things are getting started. And so our new adventure began!
Our first chef was René Guilhaumon. He definitely put his mark on the restaurant and was instrumental in creating our menu with a sound base of regional dishes from the South West of France and Spanish specialities.
Things looked promising until the night of of January 23rd 2009, when storm Klaus
froze our momentum for four months.
The night of Friday January 23rd 2009 was another epic moment in the history of La féria.
The dinner service was just over. It was approximately 11:30PM. Bertrand and Stéphan
wanted to leave the kitchen spotless. Both bosses had been managing the kitchen during resident chef René’s two-week holiday in Egypt and they wanted everything to be perfect as he was due back at work the following morning.
At approximately 2AM, as they were about to leave the premises, Stéphan pointed out how silent it was outside. There wasn’t even the cry of a duck to be heard. Nothing. The calm before the storm. At 4AM, the wind started blowing. By 7AM, the whole area was buffeted by winds of up to170 km/h. At 8AM Stéphan went to check on the restaurant. Two trees had fallen across the building, tens of trees had been uprooted. It was a total disaster. The area was forever changed. The storm finally abated and about 2PM, Bertrand and Stéphan returned to the restaurant to assess the damage. In total, five trees had crashed on La féria and more than one thousand had fallen in and around Lac de la Magdeleine.
A new battle was about to begin. After the 2006 debacle and ensuing hardships, things had finally begun looking up for us. Now, in a matter of hours, thanks to storm Klaus, we were back in the abyss.
A full three weeks passed before we saw any sign of an insurance appraiser. We had to make arrangements with the bank as bills continued to come in, debit from suppliers, January wages…
The appraiser finally got to work and, being a little ahead of the game, we presented him with estimates from local companies, including those of two friends.
A few days later, the insurance broker announced that the appraiser had died of a heart attack as he was cycling with friends over the weekend. Poor guy, he had been so kind to us and helpful. Now we had to wait for a new appraiser to be appointed and to start from the beginning all over again. The work started in April and we were able to reopen La féria by the end of May 2009.
After Storm Klaus
By the following year, we realized that there was an important shift in our business from the night bar to the restaurant. In less than two years, the restaurant had come to represent 80 % of sales.
Cost-effectiveness and continuity of our business became key questions. And ultimately, money talked: the night bar activity no longer paid for its DJ, barman and security whereas he restaurant was financially sound. We decided to do away with the night bar and focus only on the restaurant. La féria restaurant became quite the attraction on the Lac de la Magdeleine in Gujan-Mestras.
At that time four new staff members made their mark in the history of La féria . Their hard work and dedication greatly contributed to the development of La féria and the spirit it has retained to this day.
Shout out to Thomas, aka Toto, Rodolphe aka Roro and Jérôme aka Jéjé, our three football player pals who were instrumental in creating a team spirit among the staff. At the same time, Clémence aka Clémouille was hired. The foursome contributed greatly to the positive image of the restaurant.
They were always ready to work, promote the business and also party hard in the local clubs or wherever the party was. Over the next couple of years, the team spirit was something else! It was much appreciated by the rest of the staff and the patrons. Major thanks to you four !
In 2015, Stéphan and Clémence got married and of course, had the reception in La féria with their families, staff, friends and patrons.
La féria was not originally designed to serve food. Bertrand gradually lost interest in the project. The nature of the work and the hours no longer fit his lifestyle. He was also about to become a dad for the second time. To a little boy. This prompted him to sell his shares in the business to Stéphan who became the sole owner of the restaurant on August 5th 2011.
A NEW CHEF
As 2011 came to a close, our chef, René Guilhaumon who had grown a little homesick, decided to return home to the Ardèche. He spent three superb years with us, getting the restaurant on its feet.
René, thank you so much for all the good times, at work and at play ! You will forever be the first chef in the history of La féria. It’s always been a pleasure meeting up with you since. We love you, René !
Now we needed to find a new chef.
Alain Fabre joined the team and, quietly but surely, settled in at La féria. He had trained at the famous Chez Maxim’s in Paris and had worked as a chef for over ten years at Chez Pierre in Arcachon. Alain was in his early fifties and challenged himself to work a smaller kitchen with fewer staff.
He met the challenge brilliantly. He has been with us for ten years and has helped us improve both quality and cost-efficiency.
All credit goes to Alain for securing our MAITRE RESTAURATEUR title in 2015.
Extensive remodelling at La féria
The first months of 2015 saw the first major remodel at La féria. The veranda had been added on at the end of the 1990s. Insulation and waterproofing were gone and the structure had aged. The gazebo looked like it might collapse.
We took everything apart and rebuilt a veranda that would keep the customers warm in Winter and had no need for buckets on rainy days.
Rebuilding the veranda had required breaking up part of the terrace so we raised the terrace by pouring a concrete slab which we covered with duckboards. We did away with the small steps both in the entrance and the veranda in keeping with accessibility regulations. The lakeside fence was also replaced.
The renovations took three months and allowed us to start the season with new more user-friendly equipment without any damage to the local environment, the lake and forest around us.
Tourism label and official title
Stéphan has always been eager to improve service to his patrons and in 2015, he motivated his team to aim for the Qualité tourisme label (quality tourism) and the « MAITRE RETAURATEUR » title. These are the only two national titles that recognize and reward restaurants who cook from scratch with locally sourced products and put special emphasis on the hospitality and comfort they offer their customers.
The maître restaurateur title is officially awarded for four years by a decree from the Préfecture after a certified audit has been carried out by a private agency. The establishment must meet approximately 200 requirements in total, both in the kitchen and in terms of comfort and service.
Further remodelling at La féria
At the beginning of 2017, a new phase of remodelling began at La féria.
In the kitchen, waste evacuation pipes and the grease trap needed to be replaced, the floor had to be redone entirely to meet regulations.
We also created a pastry & dessert area, which was very much needed, out of the cellar area of the restaurant. We created a technical raised floor which connected waste water evacuation to the main kitchen. A cellar and bar storage space were also created.
The entrance of the restaurant was thus completely remodelled to accommodate our new needs. Along with this massive project, the car park was renovated to include an accessible parking spot for people with disabilities. The toilets were also redesigned to meet accessibility standards.
Four years on : time for another audit
Maître restaurateur We had now had the title of Maître restaurateur for four years. We needed to apply for it all over again and anticipate a surprise inspection which would testify to the fact that we follow the principles and guidelines of this official distinction.
On the day, everything was plain sailing. The official award was ours for the next four years!
Restaurant La Féria
05 57 52 48 41
Tuesday to Saturday :
Noon – 2PM
7PM – 10PM
Closed Sunday & Monday
Restaurant La Féria
Lac de la Magdeleine,
Chemin du Loup,