BUVETTE DES FEMMES ABSTINENTES
by Alexandra Osváth
Photo credit: Main Photograph – GHI
Older photographs: RTS and GENEVE AUTREFOIS EN CARTES
Just a few months after celebrating its 100th anniversary, an outdoor café in Parc la Grange which has been a feminist icon in the city for the past century, will be forced to close its doors.
The symbol of a feminist movement staunchly against alcoholism, the Buvette des Femmes Abstinentes has been a mainstay of Parc la Grange, bringing together locals and tourists alike.
THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA speaks to a male ally, Christian Burgat, whose wife runs the outdoor café. Burgat serves as the treasurer for the anti-alcohol feminist league behind the Buvette.
Who founded the Ligue des Femmes Abstinentes, and why?
In the second half of the 19th century, husbands wouldn’t let their wives play cards or sports, but they couldn’t stop them from getting involved in charity work ‒ so many associations sprung up.
Women were tired of their husbands drinking away their pay cheques, so in 1877 a group came together in Zurich to raise money for other women and children left in poverty by alcoholic husbands.
The Geneva chapter of the League was founded 25 years later, and on June 1st, 1920 they were able to open an outdoor restaurant to boost their fundraising efforts ‒ the Crémerie du Parc la Grange ‒ where we are still in operation today, but not for much longer!
What is the purpose of the League today, and has it changed much since it was founded?
Our purpose hasn’t changed in 100 years: we help people stay away from alcohol, and donate to a charity that helps children with alcoholic parents, Addiction Suisse.
We are the last remaining anti-alcohol league in Switzerland.
How did you get involved in the League?
I used to have lunch near Parc la Grange and I’d see the same elderly lady every day, campaigning for the League. One day I asked her about her work, and I offered to be treasurer for the association. It turned out that they were also looking for someone to take over the restaurant, so I spoke to my wife about it. She decided to take on the challenge, and we’re now in our 21st year running the Buvette for the League
What types of food and drink do you serve at the Buvette?
We have freshly made salads, daily specials, quiches, cakes, ice cream, and refreshments, all at very reasonable prices. We source from local vendors and use mostly organic products. But no alcoholic beverages, of course!
Why is the Buvette closing?
In 2015 the City of Geneva announced that they planned to renovate the restaurant space, so our lease would end in three years’ time. We garnered 4000 signatures in a petition to stay open, which pressured the city to renew our lease for the 2019 season.
However, once we close in October the League won’t operate a restaurant anymore. My wife and I will run the League from our home office, and next year the restaurant will be reopened under new management. But the closing of the Buvette des Femmes Abstinentes will truly be the end of an era.
Music concert to say goodbye
Gather with the League des Femmes Abstinentes and their supporters this Friday, August 23rd from 7-9 pm for a country music concert with Nashville musician Mike Wheeler to bid adieu to their much-loved community space.
Friday, August 23rd from 7-9 pm: American country music artist Mike Wheeler
Parc la Grange
19, avenue William-Favre
Buvette opening times:
From April 1st to its closing this October, open every day from 11:15 am to 7:30 pm. Open on Sundays from 10 am for breakfast.
The outdoor-only buvette is closed in inclement weather.