Restaurant chain operator sues Tokyo gov't over COVID opening hour restrictions

Japan Today -- Mar 23
A Tokyo-based restaurant chain operator filed a damages suit on Monday against the Tokyo metropolitan government for ordering that business hours be reduced as a public safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic.

Global Dining Inc claims the order "is illegal and unconstitutional as it infringes the right to freedom of business" in the first such lawsuit anywhere in Japan.

The company runs dozens of restaurants in the Tokyo area including the Gonpachi izakaya Japanese-style pubs, one of which is famous for its scene in Quentin Tarantino's film "Kill Bill," and for the site of a dinner in 2002 between then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W Bush.

The restaurant operator, listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Second Section, is seeking only 104 yen in damages, saying it is looking to shine light on the impact of government-enforced anti-virus measures that it believes excessively hamper business operations and people's lives.

The plaintiff's lawyer Rintaro Kuramochi said imposing blanket restrictions without offering evidence that restaurants are a source of infections violates the freedom of business guaranteed under the Constitution.

After a revision to the coronavirus special measures law last month, prefectures can give an order to businesses such as restaurants to shorten business hours during a state of emergency if the businesses defy the initial request without a valid reason.

Under the revised law, businesses can be fined up to 300,000 yen if they do not comply.

- Japan Today