Three managers at a popular Roppongi nightclub were arrested during a raid early Sunday for allegedly running a nightclub without a license, police said Monday.
Arrested were Takeshi Obara, the 31-year-old manager of Vanity Restaurant Tokyo, and the club’s financial and music equipment managers.
Obara said he “was not aware that his restaurant was violating the (1948 entertainment business) law,” the Metropolitan Police Department quoted him as saying.
The archaic law has been drawing heavy criticism lately for fueling an allegedly illegitimate crackdown on dance halls.
One of the capital’s biggest nightclubs, Vanity Restaurant Tokyo opened in 2010 on the 13th floor of the Roi Building, a few blocks from Roppongi’s main intersection. It attracts about 22,000 customers a month and ¥120 million in sales, police said.
When police raided the club around 2:30 a.m., the dance floor was open and drinks were still being served. The law states that clubs can’t stay open past midnight, or 1 a.m. at the latest.
The Roi Building houses bars, restaurants, an Internet cafe and pool hall among other facilities. It is also the same building where a man was famously beaten to death last September in another club by “jun boryokudan” (quasi-gangsters).
Despite the raid on Sunday, the nightclub stayed open Monday but declined to comment on the incident.
The police have gotten tougher on unlicensed nightclubs and raided scores of such establishments since a massive crackdown in 2010 on the America Mura district in Osaka that led to the arrest of several club owners.
But thousands of dance aficionados consider the 1948 law outdated and are campaigning for less-stringent rules, arguing the freedom to dance should not be regulated.
The group Let’s Dance, which includes renowned composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, has been waging an effort to relax the law and has collected more than 150,000 signatures.
Last week, about 60 lawmakers launched a nonpartisan group to ease the law, which emerged at a time when dance and other types of nightclubs were viewed as conducive to immoral behavior.
The group plans to submit a bill to ease dance club regulations after the Upper House election this summer.