The longtime owner until two months ago of the Bataclan concert hall, site of the worst of last week’s Paris attacks and where some of rock’s edgiest names have played, hopes it lives on as a free-spirited venue.
Joel Laloux sold the music hall in September after running it for nearly 40 years and now lives in Israel, where he learnt of Friday’s hostage-taking and massacre during a rock concert there.
“I have huge hope that with the enormous outpouring of solidarity in France and worldwide there is a human desire to make sure that this place is not assassinated,” the 63-year-old told AFP at his home in the southern city of Ashdod.
“It’s my baby, sold or not,” he said.
Laloux is an observant Jew and was marking the Sabbath when the attacks occurred on Friday night.
Mobile phone use is not allowed on the Sabbath, but he decided to answer anyway after several insistent calls.
He was given details on the situation as the hostage-taking was underway and also turned on the television as the magnitude of what was happening became clear.
Laloux said the images that he saw have painfully stayed with him, but he forced himself to watch, almost in disbelief. He said he felt “disgust and horror.”
The attack occurred during a sold-out concert by US rock band Eagles of Death Metal, known for their irreverent approach and bluesy sound.
Three jihadist gunmen burst into the venue in one of Paris’s trendiest districts, shooting into the crowd and eventually blowing themselves up as police stormed the building.
Eighty-nine people were killed and many others wounded. A total of 129 people died in the coordinated attacks in and near Paris that night.
‘In the front row’
Laloux angrily dismissed suggestions that the venue was targeted because of his family’s Jewish roots or due to the fact that it has hosted events in support of the Israeli army and Jewish charities.
Such speculation has spread widely online and among the French Jewish community, but he said trying to link the two is “stupid and pointless.”
For him, the jihadists chose it simply because they were sure it would be full.
“When a concert is held at the Bataclan, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 people,” he said.
The Bataclan was built in 1864 in the chinoiserie style and is named after Ba-ta-clan -- a “Chinoiserie musical” by German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach. It later hosted marriages and neighbourhood events.
Laloux and his brother Pascal transformed it into a hotspot after it was purchased in 1976 by their father Elie Touitou, a Jewish musician of Tunisian origin.
Laloux took over the artistic management while his brother handled the cafe.
It has since hosted a roster of famous names, from Lou Reed to Prince and Oasis, as well as French legends such as the group Telephone.
In September, they sold it to French media conglomerate Lagardere.
“Just after (the attack), I told myself that me and the current team were going to turn the hall into a shrine,” he said. “And you know how artists are superstitious.”
But he later reconsidered and now wants it to re-emerge even stronger than it was before. He spoke of the example of Charlie Hebdo, the French weekly attacked in January that millions of people rushed to buy afterwards.
When the Bataclan does re-open, Laloux said he would like to be “in the crowd, in the front row.”