Europe

Lens prepares for invasion of British fans at Euro 2016

  • Police fire water cannons to control the fighting fter football fans clashed ahead of the England v Russia Euro 2016 soccer match, in Marseille, France, Saturday June 11, 2016.  Riot police have used tear gas canisters during clashes with soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence during the Euro 2016 championships. (Niall Carson / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES

    Police fire water cannons to control the fighting fter football fans clashed ahead of the England v Russia Euro 2016 soccer match, in Marseille, France, Saturday June 11, 2016. Riot police have used tear gas canisters during clashes with soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence during the Euro 2016 championships. (Niall Carson / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES  (The Associated Press)

  • A man is arrested by police officers in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city.  (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

    A man is arrested by police officers in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)  (The Associated Press)

  • Albanian and Swiss fans mix at the end of the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between Albania and Switzerland, at the Bollaert stadium in Lens, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Switzerland won 1 - 0. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Albanian and Swiss fans mix at the end of the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between Albania and Switzerland, at the Bollaert stadium in Lens, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Switzerland won 1 - 0. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

Tarik Louzini stands at the counter of his brand new brasserie, a venue that's already played host to Swiss and Albanian fans at the European Championship.

But there's trepidation in the air and Louzini is considering shuttering up his three-week-old bar/restaurant when English and Welsh fans come to town for their Group B match in the northern industrial French city on Thursday. And that's not just because there will be restrictions on alcohol imposed around the game.

"When you see what happened in Marseille, it's scary," Louzini said Sunday a day after Switzerland beat Albania 1-0. "We really don't know what to do."

Louzini's concerns stem from a series of clashes involving English fans, locals, police and Russian supporters in Marseille. Dozens were injured, at least one of them seriously, and 15 were arrested.

L'Avenue, Louzini's establishment, is located on a main crossroad near the Stade Bollaert-Delelis and is an obvious stop for fans traveling to one of the four Euro 2016 matches the city is hosting.

Louzini's Facebook page shows pictures of Swiss and Albanian fans drinking and partying together on his sidewalk after their match on Saturday.

"We didn't have any problem. Everything was perfect," he said. "It's a big thing for Lens. It's a small city, we don't see that often."

With a cozy center full of narrow streets and red brick buildings, Euro 2016's smallest host venue — the stadium's 35,000 capacity can seat nearly all of Lens' inhabitants — should be a great place for fans to congregate and have a good time.

But it's within easy reach to London by train — Eurostar trains stop at nearby Lille — so the city could easily be over-run by rival English and Welsh fans who have clashed on occasion when with their club sides. In 2010, hooligans from Chelsea's "Headhunters" and Cardiff's "Soul Crew" fought on the Kings Road in London before an FA Cup match between the sides.

Another concern in light of the Marseille clashes, which prompted UEFA to issue a warning to England and Russia that their teams could be thrown out of the competition if there is more violence, is that Russian fans will be in Lille, just 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from Lens. Russia plays its second match against Slovakia on Wednesday.

Security is going to be stepped up ahead of Thursday's match. A British police presence is anticipated alongside several companies of French riot police.

Alcohol sales aren't completely banned but will be controlled. Drinking and transporting alcohol will be forbidden in fan zones and on the streets in the Lens town center. Sales of alcohol will be "strictly regulated" and limited to licensed places, and will only be served in paper or plastic cups on the terraces of bars and cafes, regional authorities have said. Sales of bottles of strong alcohol will banned in the town center.

Maxime Pauchet, the owner of Cafe de Paris in the heart of Lens, is worried about what these series of measures may do to business.

"If the state forbids alcohol, I can't say I'll open my pub," Pauchet said. "On Thursday, it will be difficult. England is not far from here so many of them will come. We are a little afraid for Thursday."

Louzini agrees.

"First, we worry about security," he said. "Then we worry about our business."

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AP Sports Writer John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.