In recent years, Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood has become almost as famous for its maid cafes as it is for its anime and video game specialty shops. Ordinarily, you don’t even have to set foot inside a cafe to feel their presence, as side streets often have maids out on the pavement passing out flyers and beckoning passersby to come to their establishments.
However, over the past few days locals have been reporting seeing notably fewer “customer pullers” (as such on-the-street staff are called), and the change follows a recent police crackdown on illegally run maid cafes.
On May 20, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested five female Akihabara maid cafe managers (between the ages of 20 and 24) and one 47-year-old male maid cafe owner over violations to the Adult Entertainment Business Regulation Law. Essentially, in Japan there are different regulations you have to follow depending on whether you’re running an ordinary restaurant/bar (called an inshokuten), or a “social restaurant/bar” (shakou inshokuten), where the wait staff also socializes with the customers and keeps them entertained.
According to the Adult Entertainment Business Regulation Law, social restaurants are required to close at 1 a.m. Ordinary restaurants, though, are allowed to stay open as long as they want, since their primary business is supposed to be providing food, and people who work night shifts or other irregular schedules might need nourishment outside the standard breakfast/lunch/dinner times.
So all else equal, it’s better to be classified as a normal restaurant, since you can stay open, and earning, past one o’clock. However, investigators judged that five Akihabara maid cafes which claimed to be regular restaurants were, in fact, social restaurants, resulting in the six arrests of the managers and owner.
Of course, one could argue that all restaurants that employ friendly, chatty, or even just polite wait staff have a social element to the services they’re providing. However, there’s a difference between service with a smile and the smile being the service itself. One of the cafes connected to the arrests, for example, was found to be charging customers as much as 7,000 yen for a bottle of cola that would cost only about 200 yen in a convenience store, but with a promise that a maid would sit and talk with them until they’d finished drinking the whole thing.
Last week’s six arrests come after arrests at four other maid cafes in April for similar violations, and investigators say that such conduct remains rampant in the neighborhood.
Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Mainichi Shimbun via Jin
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