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Samuel Trèves: a family success story tested by an unprecedented trial

Samy et Sassa Treves- © via Instagram / samysass

After a high-profile trial in the Principality, Samuel Trèves was acquitted, in the first instance, of the charges against him and his cult bar-restaurant, the Sass’ Café. 

We take a look back at the life and career of an entrepreneur who made his family the cornerstone of an unrivalled success, in Monaco and beyond the Principality.


Relief – like the end of a bad dream, or a bad joke, that went on for too long. And even, because the person in question is too reserved to say so himself, “immense satisfaction” – as his lawyer, Maître Antoine Vey, stated on his behalf.

A the end of a three-day trial, Samuel Trèves was acquitted on 15 May in the procuring case involving the Monegasque establishment he runs. And it’s not just any establishment: the Sass’ Café, a mainstay of Principality nightlife for three decades.

“A bulky but empty case”

The trial of the entrepreneur and employees revolved around a certain Monegasque view of prostitution, and took place from 3 to 5 May before the Monaco Criminal Court. Eight defendants were on the stand: Samuel Trèves, the owner and legal representative of Sass’Café; the manager of the establishment, two of his security guards and a hostess; plus three other people who are not members of the bar-restaurant staff. Sass’ Café was also cited, as a legal entity.

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All were suspected, to varying degrees, of having taken part in what the prosecution sought to have recognised as an “institutionalised policy” regarding female prostitute clients. And therefore to have been involved in procuring.

The affair came to light in 2020. While French and Monegasque police were jointly investigating suspected drug trafficking, two sex workers pointed the investigators in the direction of a possible prostitution network operating in France and Monaco.

Several Monegasque establishments were targeted by the police. Sass’ Café was one of them, and with good reason: prostitution is not illegal in the Principality, whereas soliciting and procuring are. Sex workers frequent the bar-restaurant, and the police discovered that some tables seemed to be reserved for them.


Sass’ Café is popular with celebrities – © Sass Café Monaco

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They also learned that some employees would perform small services for the sex workers in return for a fee. According to the investigators, the financial payments could be likened to a form of procuring.

Did the accusations stand up in court? For the most part, no. While tips were indeed paid by prostitutes to certain Sass’ employees, “it has not been established (that its managers) had been involved in, or instigated, the recruitment of prostitutes,” deputy public prosecutor Valérie Sagné conceded.

“Nor has it been shown that the financial balance of the Sass’ Café depended entirely on the prostitution activity inside,” the Public Prosecutor’s representative also recognised, enabling the magistrate to rule out shutting the establishment down.

This was music to the ears of the lawyers of some of the Sass’ employees, who had been at pains to point out “a bulky but empty case”, built on mere  “rumours, hearsay, and gossip.”

A ‘Monegasque reality’ on trial

What if, after the three day trial, it wasn’t the Sass’Café, its management and employees that were in the box, but rather a certain ‘Monegasque reality’? As one of the defendants reminded the court, “prostitution is permitted in Monaco, so why refuse them (entry to the establishment)? They are clients, like the others.”

While most sex workers in Monaco are registered with the local police, Samuel Trèves argued before the court that owners of bars and other nightclubs needed to regulate ‘a Monegasque reality’ – which would otherwise end up on the streets. 

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A line of defence that the 40-year old’s lawyer pursued, claiming “the hearing has made it possible to shed light on the fact that there were no wrongdoings” on the part of Samuel Trèves, in managing his establishment.

“From the beginning,” lawyer Antoine Vey said when the Sass’ manager’s acquittal was announced, “the facts of the case proved (his) client’s innocence.” “This is a trial of hypocrisy and conflation,” the lawyer of another defendant said angrily, or “a fantasy case,” as a third lawyer put it.

Fantasy perhaps, but it has had very real consequences on the personal lives of the accused. As pointed out by Maître Vey, “this procedure has had a damaging impact on (the) reputation” of Samuel Trèves.

On the stand, Trèves, who felt “betrayed”, impressed upon the magistrates that he stood “before (them) as a good person, a hard-working businessman.” “My name has been tarnished,” Trèves concluded, a name that is written on some of the finest pages in Monaco’s recent history.

From a ‘friends’ restaurant’ to a Monegasque nightlife institution, the Sass’ family ‘bug’

Because Samuel Trèves is not just anyone in Monaco. ‘Samy’ to his family and friends, of which there are many, as we shall see, is a real figure in the Principality.

A beacon in the Monegasque night. A light that, for twenty years, has lit up the wildest nights with his smile. And whose gaze, even in the middle of the craziest celebration, never strays from a certain table at the Sass’ Café, the same one every day: the one where his father, Salvador Trèves, sits.

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Another Monaco legend. He is Sass’, it’s his nickname, one that stuck after a quip by his teacher in Beausoleil. Born in 1937 in Barcelona, Salvador fled with his parents from Franco’s Spain to Marseille, before becoming a magician on cruise ships. He then opened his first disco, Tiffany’s, in 1971, in Monaco.

Frequented by the stars of the time – Sacha Distel, Dalida, Jacques Brel, Claude François – Tiffany’s was a success. A few years later, Samy was born from Salvador’s marriage to Yolande, who ran several ready-to-wear boutiques in the Principality. And it was in 1993 that Salvador Trèves set his sights on a struggling restaurant, the Clock, which he revamped from top to bottom.

The concept of the Sass’: a restaurant with a few dozen seats, a pianist for a bit of atmosphere, and a special focus on late-night opening hours. “Initially, we wanted to create a restaurant for friends,” Yolanda recalls : “and then we changed the concept over the years.”

From the end of the 1990s, with the help of a house DJ, the nights lasted until 4 or even 5 in the morning. The concept caught on. Customers became regulars. Stars too. A legend was born.

But the Trèves couple weren’t born yesterday – as they themselves concede. “The trick,” Yolande happily admits, “is that we have not grown old with our customers. That meant accepting the arrival of new generations. The new generation is our son, Samy, who took it over.”

At just 19 years of age, the young Samuel learned his trade in his parents’ shadow. “My dad got me started very early on. I learned the trade by his side,” Samy recalls : Salvador “taught me what you teach a child, namely respect. Respect for the people who work for us and with us. He also taught me the meaning of hospitality.”

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Partying is in the family’s DNA, and something that Samy went to hone, in 2004-2005, in Europe’s clubbing capital, London. He returned to Monaco full of new ideas, and took over from his father at the head of the Sass’ Café.

“We are like a tree”

Under Samuel Trèves’ leadership, the piano bar confirmed its status as a legend. And visiting celebrities were inducted into the Sass’ Café’s  “hall of fame.” Alicia Keys, Isabelle Adjani, Zinédine Zidane, Michael Jordan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Costner, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mike Tyson, Hugh Grant, Gad Elmaleh, Matt Damon, Enrico Macias, Will Smith, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Bono and U2, Eva Longoria, Raymond Domenech, Robert Wagner, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lady Gaga, Sharon Stone, Kylian Mbappé, Bradley Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, not forgetting Prince Albert : they’ve all been, and often been back, to Sass’ Café.


Samy and Sassa Treves, respectively owner and founder of Sass’ Café, with Prince Albert II – © Sass’ Café

Samy will pose for a photo with each of them, dance the night away, or even sing a song on the piano. The recipe for attracting all these stars? A keen sense of interpersonal skills, of course, an indispensable human quality that Samy and his party-loving father have in equal measure.

But that’s not all. “We have always respected the celebrities who come in,” said Samuel Trèves recently, on the occasion of the establishment’s 30th anniversary:  “we’ve never brought the press along. So the celebrities really feel safe.”

I always say that the Sass’ Café is a members’ club where you don’t need to be a member,” explains Samy, who sees the family business “as a tree. We are able to grow because we have strong roots, thanks to my father. When I took over the running of the family business, my main job was to put coal in the fire and keep the train moving. Of course, we need to maintain our momentum.”

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And Samuel Trèves has plenty of ideas on how to keep the Sass’ locomotive running at full steam.

A career honoured by Monaco’s highest authorities

Samy had good teachers: his childhood friend, Riccardo Giraudi, with whom he opened the Le Bouchon restaurant (now La Cantinetta); Formula 1 supremo Flavio Briatore, his partner at the Cipriani restaurant; and the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), with which he helped turn Jimmy’z around. 

So, after a failed venture in Dubai – “a superb adventure but wrong time, wrong place,” according to Samy – it was in Saudi Arabia that the Monaco businessman decided to open a pop-up restaurant in the heart of the AlUla desert, last December.

“Today, we are ready and in a few months we should be announcing a series of franchise openings abroad,, the young entrepreneur announced. A new Sass’ Café is due to open by the end of the year at the prestigious Corinthia Bucharest, one of the most luxurious hotels in the Romanian capital.

But all roads lead to Monaco, where he was born, for Samuel Trèves. It is in Monaco, again, that he launched ‘his’ restaurant, inspired by his constant travels to the end of the world: The Niwaki, a new Japanese establishment that has managed a successful fusion of Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. 

In a chic and cosy decor designed by architect Rashid Rivani, Niwaki guests can enjoy sashimi, tempura and other maki made from the rarest and most sought-after ingredients – not to mention, for visual effect, a sushi bar and, so that the immersion as complete as possible, ‘Japanese style’ automatic toilets.

Yet another success for the Trèves boy, who is now considered by the Monegasque authorities to be one of the “key representatives and employers in the catering industry in Monaco.”

The main representatives and employers of Monaco’s catering sector – © Communication Department / Manuel Vitali

Restoring the family’s honour

Will this success be tarnished by the “Sass’ Café affair”? There is no doubt that for the father of four who puts family – and football – ahead of any other consideration, the trial has definitely been a blow.

As an immediate consequence, sex workers are no longer admitted to Sass’, but this has had no impact on turnover.

Acquitted in the first instance, Samuel Trèves is presumed innocent, pending a possible appeal from the public prosecutor’s office. A first victory that allowed him to clear his name and, above all, that of his family.

A family Samy still intends to turn to: “maybe one day one of my children will take over, as I did from my father,” he muses.

In terms of advice to his future heirs, the most important thing is “respect. Be respectful to customers, employees, and treat everyone as someone important. That’s what we do (at Sass’ Café) and I believe that’s why we’ve been here for 30 years.”