“Where are you drinking tonight? Why not here!”
Osaka, Saturday night, May 29. Young touts appeal to thronging passersby: “We serve alcohol!” “We’re open to 5 a.m.!” “Come on in!” “Welcome!”
Very friendly, very inviting – and the passersby respond eagerly, reports Weekly Playboy (June 21). You’d never know that a state of emergency was in force – was in fact being extended, the planned May 31 expiry having proved over-optimistic. COVID-19 is still surging. Normal life seems a long way off.
But normal life is attractive. Normal life is irresistible. People have had enough of abnormal life. It’s been going on for a year and a half now. Self-restraint is becoming a strait-jacket.
Nowhere more so than in the dining and drinking-out sector. Even with government financial support, pubs, bars and restaurants can sustain only so much business loss. Many have gone under. And everybody wants to eat and drink – with friends and strangers, outside the home. It’s human.
The current state of emergency, in Osaka and Tokyo and other designated areas, is the nation’s third since the pandemic began. It calls for suspension of alcohol service and closure by 8 p.m. Earlier emergencies saw general compliance. People were frightened, and the internet abuzz with denunciations of violators. People are still frightened, of course, but less so. Familiarity breeds contempt. The novelty has worn off.
“Hell with it, if they fine me I’ll pay the fine!” gloats the owner of a large pub in Osaka’s Minami nightlife district. The maximum fine is 300,000 yen. With the business he’s doing, the owner figures, he can afford the fine.
Making the rounds, Weekly Playboy’s reporter finds most of the pubs in the area open and thriving. In Tokyo it’s the same story: pubs 80 percent full and few wearing masks. (It’s hard to drink masked.) And people want to drink. Early summer is an exuberant time of year. You can’t keep high spirits down forever.
Blogs listing open drinking establishments are no longer naming and shaming but advertising. It’s a bold defiance the owners are mounting. “Rather than take money from the government we choose to stay in business,” Playboy quotes one as blogging. “It’s good for our image.”
Says another: “I’ve complied with the self-restraint order before – not this time!”
Numerous small bars, pubs and restaurants have closed down under the strain. Those big enough to ride out the storm are swallowing them up – their properties and their customers. Short-term loss, long-term gain is their attitude. Bargain prices abound – draft beer that normally sells for 450 yen a glass is now on tap at 190 yen. It’ll keep things going till things get better.
What can governments, local and national, do about it? Get their act together, for one thing. Emergencies declared, withdrawn and declared again hardly give an impression of authority knowing what it’s doing.
Other loopholes, too, need to be closed, says Playboy. “I’ve complied with all municipal regulations until the current emergency (declared April 25), it hears from Tokyo pub owner Yuka Fujishima. “When the last emergency was declared (in January), I applied for municipal compensation. The money never came. It was a matter of 5 million yen. I phoned the city office and was told my documentation was incomplete. What was the problem? A check mark outside the box. So I redid it and sent it in again. I haven’t heard a thing since.”© Japan Today