THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
December 15, 2020 at 19:10 JST
More bad news is on the way for businesses hoping for a more prosperous year-end and New Year holiday season to help rebound from a dismal 2020.
Battling the third wave of the novel coronavirus outbreak, many prefectural governors will extend their requests for bars and eateries that serve alcoholic beverages to shorten business hours for up to several more weeks, extending into 2021.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, after announcing the extension of the restriction period from Dec. 17 to Jan. 11, said she felt "extremely guilty about the business operators," at a news conference on the evening of Dec. 14.
Koike acknowledged the decision will “impose more burdens” on targeted businesses such as "izakaya" restaurants and karaoke parlors throughout Tokyo, excluding its islands.
But she asked operators of these businesses for their “understanding,” and urged residents of the capital to refrain from going out for nonessential purposes during the New Year holidays.
The Osaka prefectural government the same day also decided to extend its request for businesses to close early for two more weeks.
To prevent a health care system collapse due to spike in infections, restaurants that serve alcohol in the city of Osaka’s Kita Ward and Chuo Ward had been asked to close at 9 p.m. from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15.
But the prefectural government is now asking such businesses in the entire city to close at 9 p.m. until Dec. 29.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Dec. 14 said the central government will double the cooperation money paid to businesses that follow the local governments’ request to shorten business hours during the holidays.
The current compensation is equivalent of a monthly amount of up to 600,000 yen ($5,760). But Suga said the payment will be doubled during the year-end and New Year holidays.
The extension decisions by the Tokyo and Osaka governors came on the heels of Suga’s announcement.
In Tokyo, businesses that abide by the extension request will receive 1 million yen for a 25-day period.
For the 20-day period from Nov. 28, when the restrictions kicked in, until Dec. 17, the payout will be 400,000 yen.
The Osaka prefectural government will pay 760,000 yen to each business that cooperates with the extension request and closes early after Dec. 16.
NATIONWIDE RIPPLE EFFECT
Other prefectural governments have taken steps to issue a new request that takes a toll on these businesses.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki followed the governors of Tokyo and Osaka and on Dec. 14 asked businesses including restaurants and bars in the cities of Naha, Urasoe and Okinawa to close at 10 p.m. from Dec. 17 to 28.
In Saitama Prefecture, businesses that serve alcohol beverages and karaoke parlors in Saitama city's Omiya Ward and Kawaguchi and Koshigaya cities are currently asked to close at 10 p.m. until Dec. 17.
Saitama Governor Motohiro Ono on Dec. 14 said he will extend the restriction for 10 more days or so.
Gifu Governor Hajime Furuta the same day requested restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol in six cities to shut from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Dec. 19 to Jan. 12.
The prefectural government will pay about 500,000 yen to each business that complies for the full 25 days.
“With everyone in the prefecture together, I want to put the brakes on infections,” Furuta said at a news conference.
In Aichi Prefecture, only such businesses in Nagoya’s Naka Ward had been asked to shut or shorten business hours.
But Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura on Dec. 15 said the restrictions will be extended to cover the entire prefecture from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11, after Nagoya city assembly members asked the governor to do so.
“I feel the same (as you do), that we have to protect Nagoya's health care system,” Omura told the assembly members.
Each business will receive 40,000 yen per day and up to 1 million yen, according to the governor.
Keeping in step with Tokyo, the neighboring Kanagawa prefectural government will extend the restrictions in two major cities until Jan. 11.
Officials are expected to make a formal decision on extending the request at the prefectural government's coronavirus task force meeting on the evening of Dec. 15.
Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and karaoke parlors in Yokohama and Kawasaki had been asked to close at 10 p.m. from Dec. 7 to Dec. 17.
They will now be asked to continue to do so until Jan. 11.
Each business that cooperates will receive 20,000 yen per day. After Dec. 18, that will be doubled to 40,000 yen per day.
The Ibaraki prefectural government is also expected to announce an extension of the current request for shorter business hours until Dec. 20.
Other prefectural governments including at least Gunma and Kochi are expected to make a similar request.
NOT IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT
The wave of decisions to extend the restrictions will deal yet another body blow to businesses already hard hit during the pandemic.
In Tokyo's Kabukicho, the nation’s largest nightlife district, many people passed in front of bars and restaurants without stopping, in a hurry to get home on the evening of Dec. 14 after the governor’s announcement.
A 39-year-old bar owner in the area said Koike’s decision was “an expected one, considering the number of new infections lately.”
“Still, it is the worst outcome,” he said, looking totally disheartened.
Following the metropolitan government’s request, he has closed the bar at 10 p.m. since the restrictions took effect on Nov. 28.
His sales in the first half of December were about 40 percent of what they were normally, due to the drop in year-end parties.
The compensation promised by the governments--even it is doubled--may not be enough to cover fixed costs and expenses that total more than 1 million yen.
“Thanks to the generosity of our regular customers, we are just barely able to make it,” he said.
Koike said that for Tokyo to “welcome a peaceful new year,” businesses and residents must follow strict anti-virus measures.
The bar owner said he will abide by the governor's request but doesn't share her sentiments.
“The business has fallen further and further into the red," he said. "I can’t even afford to celebrate New Year’s Eve.”
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