By  on December 13, 2006

PARIS — Never mind that there's already Zara and Gap stores on the Champs-Elysées here. Hennes & Mauritz has been denied permission to open a branch on the famed street amid concerns its presence would "banalize" the high-traffic avenue.

A spokeswoman for the Swedish fast-fashion chain confirmed the decision by a Paris commission to block H&M's plans to open a store in a spot formerly occupied by Club Med.

"We are very surprised and disappointed," she said. "It's puzzling because so many of our competitors already have stores there."

She added that H&M hoped negotiations with authorities would smooth over the impasse.

The decision was based on officials' fears the Champs-Elysées is becoming too monolithic a shopping magnate to the detriment of cultural destinations, such as movie theaters. Officials also worry the number of restaurants on the street are in decline.

Eateries on the street range from Fouquets to McDonald's, with shops from Cartier to Mango and Virgin to Guerlain lining the sidewalks, some of the busiest in Paris.

If the decision holds, it will not be the first time officials have successfully regulated shopping on the Champs-Elysées.

Earlier this year, Louis Vuitton was ordered to close its flagship on the street on Sundays after a complaint from a labor union. Vuitton has appealed the decision and has been granted temporary authorization to remain open.

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