Eating, Drinking Establishments Dread 2nd State of Emergency

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The manager of the Kingyo izakaya pub disinfects the inside of his establishment in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on Monday.

Many operators of eating and drinking establishments voiced dismay, as it has become likely that the government will declare a state of emergency again in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.

The government will likely declare a state of emergency in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures because the spread of novel coronavirus infections has not slowed down.

The four local governments already decided to require operators of eating and drinking establishments, such as izakaya pubs, to close at 8 p.m. The governors expressed their determination, saying that now is the decisive time for preventing a further increase of infections.

But business operators lamented when they heard the policy of the central and local governments, which was announced soon after New Year’s Day. One of them said, “I have no choice but to suspend my business.”

■ Half of nation’s cases

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said at a quickly called press conference Monday evening: “The infection situation has shifted to a totally different phase from that in the past. We have to thoroughly reduce contacts among people.” Koike expressed a sense of urgency.

According to a tally by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the total daily number of people infected with the coronavirus in Tokyo and the three other prefectures currently accounts for half of the nationwide number.

The percentage in early December was at the 30% level, and had risen ahead of the year-end. On Dec. 31, when the nationwide number of newly confirmed infections exceeded 4,500, its highest ever, the total in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa accounted for 56%.

At a meeting of the four governors ahead of the press conference, they agreed to toughen demands on eating establishments and other businesses to shorten service hours.

They decided that the end of the service hours, which is currently 10 p.m., will be moved to 8 p.m. Serving alcoholic beverages will be limited to until 7 p.m.

At the press conference, Koike said, “I will ask for stricter actions.” At the same time, she pointed out that group dinners with alcoholic beverages carry a high risk of spreading infections.

Koike sought understanding from the public, saying, “To raise effectiveness, I narrowed down the target to eating and drinking establishments.”

Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono also said at a press conference Monday: “I shall save people’s lives and prevent the collapse of medical institutions’ functions. I seek cooperation for that purpose.”

■ Kept in agony

The 69-year-old manager of Kingyo, an izakaya pub near JR Okachimachi Station in Taito Ward, Tokyo, said in a worried tone, “I have to consider temporarily closing my business.”

The izakaya was already closing at 10 p.m., one hour earlier than usual, in line with the request from the Tokyo metropolitan government. Thus sales have been about halved when compared with usual years before the virus crisis.

He has managed the izakaya, buoyed by the encouragement of frequent customers. But he said that if the izakaya cannot remain open after 8 p.m., the most profitable hours, the business will not be sustainable because rents and other costs will exceed profits.

“I have narrowly managed to continue my business by cutting labor costs to the minimum. I want the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments to provide sufficient compensation for the request to shorten our service hours.”

The 59-year-old manager of a long-established yakitori restaurant in Tokyo’s Kanda area said, “I have to accept the declaration [of a state of emergency] itself.”

But he added: “Cutting off alcoholic beverages at 7 p.m. is no different from having to close my restaurant. I feel as if I’m continually kept in anguish.”

■ Commuting once a week

Some companies have increased the frequency of employees’ telework or canceled in-person New Year’s greeting in the wake of the policy announced by the central government and others.

An information-technology company in Minato Ward, Tokyo, which mainly develops software products, plans to reduce the number of days when employees in administrative divisions work at the office from three or four days a week currently to one day a week if the state of emergency is declared.

An official of the company said, “We want to cooperate with the government’s policy so that infections will not further spread.”

The 57-year-old president of a metal-processing company in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, said that he intends to refrain from visiting clients to exchange New Year’s greetings.