Bataclan concert hall following terror attack
Bataclan concert hall following terror attack Reuters

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 - but denies it was targeted because he is an observant Jew.

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 night'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."

However, 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 IDF 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. Indeed, 89 victims were murdered at the concert hall.

Despite his assertions, chilling video from 2008 shows Muslims threatening the Bataclan with attacks due to a pro-Israel event being held there.

Likewise, a member of the radical group Army of Islam told French security services back in 2011 that "we had planned an attack against the Bataclan because its owners are Jewish."

Bataclan Theater was also targeted back in 2004 when the Israeli hip-hop duo of Subliminal and Hatzel performed there, despite threats by Islamists that nearly closed the performance. In a 2006 repeat, the venue gave in to the pressure and canceled the show in advance, forcing the Zionist rap stars to perform elsewhere.

"Disgust and horror"

Laloux is an observant Jew and was marking the Sabbath when the attacks occurred on Friday night.

Cell phone use is not allowed during Shabbat, but he decided to answer anyway after several insistent calls, fearing that something serious had occurred.

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"

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 neighborhood 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."

AFP contributed to this report.

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