Baker's on vacation - no baguette today

London - Take a walk through the small Parisian suburb of Malakoff in the summer and you would usually find a large notice in front of the town hall stating which bakeries and pharmacies are open, as well as which are on holiday during July and August.

As in every neighbourhood and arrondissement, this practice is mandatory: each citizen is entitled to fresh bread and medication within walking distance of home - or they were, until this year, when the Prefecture de Police deregulated bakers' usually obligatory one- month summer break.

So, for the first time since 1789, French bakers may take their vacations whenever they please - all at the same time, or not at all.

Quelle horreur! Pharmacies, on the other hand, remain open as usual.

"Bakeries don't classically communicate or help one another out: with this law, it is now up to each enterprise to determine how profitable their area is over the summer," says Mr Gauthier Denis, a former trainee baker at 15th arrondissement's Maison Dossemont and now a baker at five-star hotel Plaza Athenee.

"In August - the month in which the French tend to go on holiday - people in some areas are left breadless while bakeries in busy areas don't shut down at all," he says.

This has become a key business opportunity for us – at times we make and sell twice as many baguettes as the rest of the year.

MR MOUJOUIMED, a baker in a traditional boulangerie in the quiet 13th arrondissement on the Left Bank, which now remains open throughout the summer

However, French publications such as Le Monde and Le Figaro have remained unconvinced by rumours of an impending "baguette shortage".

Mr Moujou Imed, a baker in a traditional boulangerie in the quiet 13th arrondissement on the Left Bank, which now remains open throughout the summer, has even seen a positive outcome from the change in the law: "This has actually become a key business opportunity for us - at times we make and sell twice as many baguettes as the rest of the year because there is a real rush for it every night before dinner time."

Its main competitor during the month of August is the large-scale Monoprix retail chain around the corner, with an entire dedicated bakery space - something "which has become increasingly accepted by locals", says Imed.

Mr Denis believes there is a growing split between classical boulangeries de quartier (local bakeries) and new hip (not to say pricey) ones that follow "Bobo" (bohemianbourgeois) trends.

This includes Liberte, a self- proclaimed "bread laboratory"; Helmut Newcake, which specialises in gluten-free patisseries; and Gontran Cherrier, famous for its multi-cultural concoctions such as curry or chickpea pain de campagne.

But, for all bakeries, one thing remains certain, according to Mr Denis: "Take two weeks off and the customers could have forgotten all about you."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Baker's on vacation - no baguette today'. Print Edition | Subscribe