The lifting of the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo allowed businesses to serve alcohol for the first time in about two months, but continued restrictions have weakened the minds of operators and customers.
In Tokyo and six prefectures where the state of emergency ended on June 20, pre-emergency measures came into effect the next day. In the capital, these restrictions consist of serving only groups of one or two customers and limiting consumption time to less than 90 minutes.
The same pre-emergency measures were also extended to the three prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa neighboring Tokyo.
Those concerned have questioned whether the measures would do anything to prevent the spread of new coronavirus infections or how to enforce those rules. Others said the curbs caused confusion.
A woman in her thirties who was having a drink with a colleague on a table on the terrace of an “izakaya” pub in the Akabane district of the Kita district of Tokyo, gave her opinion on the effectiveness of the pre -emergency.
âIf I’m asked to leave 90 minutes later, I’ll just find another place to drink,â she said. âOne wonders how effectively such measures can prevent the spread of the virus. “
Akabane, which is full of small, tightly-packed drinking establishments, is known for places where you can “get drunk on just 1,000 yen ($ 9).”
An izakaya in the area said that when he asked groups of three to go their separate ways, potential customers decided to drink elsewhere.
“I’m grateful that we can offer alcohol, but we don’t know if we can recoup the sales,” said the 35-year-old izakaya manager.
In the towns of Saitama and Kawaguchi in Saitama Prefecture, customers are encouraged to drink alone or only with family members who live together.
Around JR Kawaguchi Station, a train stop north of Akabane, a woman in her 50s visited the Kakuuchi Arai Shoten bar and also expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the rules.
âIf someone wants to drink with another person, I think they’ll go to the nearby Akabane neighborhood,â the part-time employee said.
The 30-year-old owner of an izakaya around the station explains that it’s difficult to know if the customers are from the same family and if they actually live together.
âHonestly, even if they don’t meet the requirements, it’s hard to turn down requests for alcohol from customers,â he said.
The lifting of the state of emergency allowed the major izakaya operators to restart their activities.
The pub operator Kichiri & Co. had suspended the operations of 50 establishments, half of its activities, during the state of emergency.
Masaki Tsunoji, a sales promotion manager for the reopened Kichiri Izakaya pub in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, said, âThe state of emergency that has just ended should be the last.
Restaurant operator Watami Co., Colowide Co., which operates the Amataro izakaya chain, the Syoya izakaya Daisyo Corp chain operator. and UK-style pub operator Hub Inc. partially restarted operations on June 21.
The restrictions on serving alcohol differ by region, so each izakaya chain checks how its establishments must meet these requirements.
âService staff bear a greater burden of explaining the rules to customers, which could cause problems,â said a spokesperson for the izakaya channel.
(This article was written by Keita Yamaguchi, Takaaki Fujino, and Takumi Wakai.)