Kanpai! Japanese bars cheer return of booze

Nikkei -- Jun 22
Japan's lifting of the coronavirus state of emergency in areas including Tokyo and Osaka has brought alcohol back to bars and restaurants, to the relief of both drinkers and businesses battered by lockdowns.
Customers were drinking Monday afternoon at restaurants in Tokyo's Ameya Yokocho shopping district. An 86-year-old from the Tokyo suburb of Chofu ordered a mug of beer and a bowl of rice topped with sashimi. The man received his second vaccine dose early this month, and "got the urge to drink beer today," he said.

In the capital's Shinbashi neighborhood, two pairs of customers were drinking around 5 p.m. at an izakaya Japanese-style pub that had begun serving alcohol again.

"Alcohol made up most of our sales, and not being able to serve it crushed us," the proprietor said. "I'm relieved that there's been a little progress."

But businesses are not out of the woods yet, as local authorities fearing another resurgence in infections try to limit late-night crowds that could spread the virus. Both Tokyo and Osaka have asked bars to serve drinks only to parties of up to two, and only until 7 p.m.

Using data from early 2020 as a base figure of 100 for comparison, traffic in Shinbashi rated at 61.5 around 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, a 9-point recovery from a week earlier. Traffic around Osaka's Dotonbori entertainment district rebounded 8 points. The Susukino district of Sapporo -- where looser restrictions allow groups of four to drink together -- enjoyed a 15-point bounce.

Some establishments are already flouting limits sought by local authorities. At least 10 sites in Ameya Yokocho had no plastic barriers between seats visible from outside.

Patrons celebrate the resumption of alcohol sales at a food stall in Fukuoka, in southwestern Japan. (Photo by Shinya Sawai) A check of 71 restaurants in Shinbashi on Monday night found that only 44 seemed to be following Tokyo's requests. Many others served alcohol past 8 p.m. or allowed groups of four or more, and they were nearly full, while at least one advertised hours running until 5 a.m. - Nikkei