Japan’s bars and restaurants toast eased COVID-19 alcohol measures


Eating and drinking establishments in Tokyo and other parts in Japan were happy that they could finally serve alcoholic drinks for the first time in months as novel coronavirus measures were eased on Monday for the areas.

The central government has lifted the third coronavirus state of emergency on Sunday for Tokyo and eight other prefectures.

“I’m simply happy to see customers,” Jin Ichimichi, who runs a bar in Tokyo’s Kanda district, said with a smile.

Ichimichi, 46, closed the bar on April 25, when the state of emergency started for Tokyo and elsewhere. He had been making a living with financial aid provided by the Tokyo metropolitan government to eateries complying with requests for shorter operating hours or closures under the national government-declared state of emergency.

In the quasi-emergency stage, the metropolitan government is asking customers to stay at restaurants or bars for no longer than 90 minutes and visit the stores in groups of up to two if they drink alcohol.

The restriction on the time of stay “may enhance table turnover and lead to sales growth,” Ichimichi said while showing anger about a different rule that alcoholic drinks should not be served after 7 p.m. Stores that rely on late-night parties “cannot run a business” under such a condition, he said.

Corporate workers who visited an izakaya pub in Tokyo’s Shimbashi district had a toast.

A 49-year-old female company worker said, “It’s unfair that it is all right to hold the Tokyo Olympics with (up to) 10,000 spectators (at each venue) while restrictions are imposed on izakaya.” The spectator cap of 10,000 at each venue was decided Monday by the Tokyo Games organizing committee and four other organizations.

In Kyoto Prefecture, western Japan, which is among the prefectures that were put into the quasi-emergency stage on Monday, groups of up to four people are allowed to visit eating and drinking facilities if they drink alcohol.

A manager serves alcohol at an izakaya pub in Tokyo on Monday evening. | KYODO
A manager serves alcohol at an izakaya pub in Tokyo on Monday evening. | KYODO

Pontocho Robin, a restaurant with a balcony over the Kamogawa river in the city of Kyoto, the capital of the prefecture, activated its beer taps for the first time in some two months since the declaration of the state of emergency.

An official at the restaurant quoted a beer tap maintenance firm worker as saying that none of its staff employees could come on time because they were busy with many other alcohol-serving stores reopening on Monday in line with the transition from the state of emergency to the quasi-emergency stage.

Junya Ichida, the 40-year-old owner of Pontocho Robin, said, “We want to operate while calling on customers to take measures against infections.”

A corporate worker in her 20s, who visited Japanese restaurant Mimasuya-okudohan in the city of Kyoto with a company colleague, said that she is “happy (to come to the restaurant) for the first time in several months.”

She said that she did not feel a change in the atmosphere of the city after the expiration of the state of emergency.

“I think that it might have been all right if eateries served alcoholic drinks” when the emergency was in place, as there was no change in operating hours after the emergency was replaced with the quasi-emergency stage, she said.

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