Sasebo bars petition to let sailors drink

Kyodo

A group of bar and restaurant owners in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, has submitted a petition to the mayor seeking the relaxation of a ban on nighttime drinking by U.S. Navy personnel stationed in the city, arguing the rule is seriously hurting business.

“Some were forced to close their establishments due to the decline in customers. Others are concerned about maintaining friendly relations with U.S. military personnel,” the petition handed Wednesday to Sasebo Mayor Norio Tomonaga said.

The ban was introduced at the end of November following a series of alleged misconduct involving U.S. service members, including rape, a home invasion and assault, and public indecency.

According to a survey conducted by Naokazu Hisatomi, 32, and other business owners of 30 out of 50 bars and eateries in Sasebo catering mainly to foreign customers all saw sales dip by at least 30 percent after the ban took effect.

Sales plunged by some 70 percent at 13 establishments, the survey said. One has already closed and two others are set to shut down if the situation doesn’t improve by month’s end.

“If this condition continues for two to three months, 90 percent of bars and restaurants will go out of business,” said Hisatomi, who runs four establishments.

Mayor Tomonaga said: “The incidents were regrettable, but not all U.S. soldiers are bad people. I would like to convey the current situation to military base authorities and to the Foreign Ministry.”