PARIS — Next month marks the two-year anniversary of the Bataclan attack — and the one-year anniversary of its reopening. The Nov. 13, 2015 shooting that took place at the historic Paris music venue, along with coordinated attacks at nearby cafes and a soccer stadium, left a total of 130 people dead. It was an attack on everything that the Bataclan, which had featured everything from Offenbach operettas to heavy metal bands since its 1865 opening, had stood for: youth, joy, entertainment and life.
After its reopening last year, with a concert by Sting, the concert hall had trouble booking other acts, as many musicians were reluctant to perform in a place where so many people had been killed. In the 11 months since, Le Monde reports on Tuesday, the Bataclan has booked 20% fewer shows than before the attacks. The first six months were especially hard, according to Jules Frutos, one of the current top managers at the Bataclan. "We obviously weren't drowning in calls from agents who wanted their artists performing here."
In the aftermath of such a tragic event, especially when the venue has been specifically targeted, deciding what becomes of the site is never easy. The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was faced with the same dilemma as the Bataclan after the massacre there in June 2016. As with the Bataclan, the symbolism of the locale is crucial. After the shooting, Pulse's owner Barbara Poma launched the onePulse Foundation, with the goal of turning the club into a memorial and museum for the shooting victims. She is now looking to reopen the club, but in a different location, leaving the original building for the memorial. "This project is not about replacing a building or a fun hangout for the gay community," said Jason Felts, a onePulse Foundation board member, in an official statement. "This project is about healing."
There is, however, a third option. After the New Year's Eve shooting at Reina nightclub in Istanbul, carried out by an Islamic terrorist, the Municipality Board decided to demolish the venue, saying that parts of the building had been built illegally. According to Turkish daily Hurriyet, the club's owner said he also no longer wanted to "sell entertainment in a place in which many people died."
Deciding what becomes of the site is never easy.
More and more attacks seem to target people enjoying themselves, including the Oct. 1 mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas and last May's attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. A tragedy at these kinds of major venues, of course, also leaves its mark, though such spaces are less likely to be immediately associated with that event.
For the Bataclan, the challenge is to simultaneously overcome and remember what happened on November 13, 2015. Next up at the Bataclan, on Wednesday night, is a performance by French comedian Michaël Gregorio. That, ladies and gentleman, will be one tough room to play.