Patrons and hospitality venue owners alike rejoiced Monday in Tokyo and Osaka as an easing of lockdown restrictions did away with alcohol bans in both cities and several other regions. Limits on what is possible for hospitality venues persist, however, as both Tokyo and Osaka have asked businesses to only accept groups of two and stop serving at 7 p.m.
Especially Japan’s Isakaya pubs, which serve alcoholic drinks and Japanese-style pub food, had been hit hard by the ban. According to Tokyo Shoko Research, more than 1,000 restaurants of all styles have shuttered for good since the start of 2020 in Japan. The rest keep struggling even when they are allowed to open because of a lack of foot traffic from office workers and tourists.
As seen in data by Google, visits to non-essential retail, hospitality and entertainment venues were still down by 29 percent in Toyko and 24 percent in Osaka on June 18 compared to before the pandemic – two of the highest results in the Japan-wide report. Okinawa, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Kyoto were also hit hard, but foot traffic is expected to increase steadily in the coming weeks as infection numbers sink and vaccination rates rise slowly but surely.