Drink up, drink fast, drink alone? Tokyo to ease alcohol curbs


FILE PHOTO: The chef of an izakaya, a Japanese-style dining bar, prepares to close around 20:00 local time next to sake bottles, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan February 2, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) -Thirsty Tokyo residents are about to get a bit of a break just as the summer heat arrives with authorities in the Japanese capital preparing to relax a ban on alcohol in restaurants and bars when it lifts a coronavirus state of emergency.

But don't plan any parties.

Tokyo will soon allow "solitary drinkers" to order alcohol between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., but keep an 8 p.m. (1100 GMT) closing time for bars and restaurants, while limiting to 90 minutes the time each customer spends on the premises, local media said, quoting city government sources.

Another proposal would allow up to two tipplers to gather, the Nikkei daily reported. A decision is likely later on Friday.

For the most recent state of emergency, Japan's third, authorities focused on alcohol, fearing that lowered inhibitions would lead to loud voices, lapses in hygiene and bellying up to the bar for too long, increasing the risks of aerosol contagion.

Japanese took to social media in anger at the new proposals, noting a double standard given that the 2020 Summer Olympics are set to open in just over a month despite widespread opposition.

"Some say it's unrealistic to cancel the Olympics, but for restaurants it's unrealistic to continue with restrictions," wrote one Twitter user.

"Ordinary citizens suffer restrictions, while those in power can do exactly what they want. Can we call this democracy?"

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, Elaine Lies, Linda Sieg; writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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