Hiroaki Wada reports in the Mainichi Shimbun on new, time-limited permits issued by the National Tax Agency (NTA) that allow restaurants to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises.

The NTA announced the creation of a new temporary retail permit on their site on 9 April 2020, allowing restaurants to sell wine and sake with take-away food.

They said the move was in response to calls from the restaurant sector to allow them to sell alcohol and increase sales while advice to stay at home meant the public was avoiding restaurants.

Restaurants can apply for a permit from their local tax office, and the NTA intends to issue them swiftly. Applications are open until 30 June 2020, permits are valid for six months after issue and only can only be used to sell alcohol held in inventory or already purchased from dealers. Online sales are limited to consumers in one prefecture (or metropolitan area). Restaurants must log purchases and sales, and report quantities sold.

Stay-at-home guidance has dealt a serious blow to the Japanese hospitality industry. Synchro Food Co. (Shibuya, Tokyo) surveyed 415 members of restaurant information site Inshokuten (飲食店.COM) in mid-March 2020, where 60% responded that February sales were down compared to the previous year. Two thirds of respondents owned one business, with 54.5% based in Tokyo.

Anonymous commentators in the restaurant industry said that businesses would collapse if the situation continued. Adding alcohol to take-away food orders and selling alcohol held in inventory allows restaurants to increase sales, so they wanted permission to do so. There was also a risk to wholesalers and producers supplying ingredients and drinks to restaurants.

After New York brought in measures to control the coronavirus outbreak, restaurants were ordered to close down but also allowed to sell wine and other alcoholic drinks with take-away food from mid-March.

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