Walking past a restaurant in Tokyo this week, you might spot the following sign: "Saké, ok!" Nothing out of the ordinary, it would seem, but these days it has another meaning: that restaurant is part of a growing rebellion against the government's directives not to serve alcohol after 7 p.m, reports Le Monde.
Tokyo, and its three bordering departments (Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama), have been placed in a state of emergency since August 2 following a surge in COVID cases. Establishments that serve alcohol have been required to close at 7, while those that don't can stay open an additional hour, according to Kyodo news. But not everyone is sticking to these rules.
The last time we stopped serving alcohol, one customer scolded us.
Smaller owner-operated pubs with few employees prefer to cash in on government compensation for closing down. Bigger restaurants and chains, however, are defying the bans. Kozo Hasegawa, president of Global Dining, which runs about 30 cafes and restaurants in Tokyo and surrounding areas, says he intends to "conduct business as usual," Le Monde reports. The manager of an izakaya (a popular Japanese cuisine) right next to the great Senso-ji temple, explains that, for people like him, the fine (300,000 yen, or 2,500 euros) is just an "additional tax… We pay the fine and continue."
A sign depicting the 8 p.m. closure of a restaurant — Photo: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO/ZUMA Press
The restaurants are responding to an unusual level of consumer demand. Although millions are adhering to Japan's restrictions, and staying home, plenty of others are going out. "Since the Olympics are being held, many people might be thinking that it is fine to go out," said Narumi Sakai, a 54-year-old woman quoted by Kyodo News.
There seems to be a general thirst for alcohol as well. When the ban was just announced, Masahiko Yamashina, owner of a yakitori chicken skewer restaurant in the Shimbashi district said: "The last time we stopped serving alcohol, one customer scolded us," reports the Japan Times. "There's much to lose from obeying the ban."