• Kyodo


Administration officials and lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are considering lifting a ban on dance clubs, music venues and some bars operating past midnight, an LDP source said Tuesday. An earlier attempt in June to revise the law failed.

Eyeing legislation this fall at the earliest, they plan to allow establishments to stay open until 6 a.m. by replacing the current outright ban with a requirement for clubs and bars to obtain a license for extended operations from prefectural public safety commissions, the source said.

Current restrictions relate to measures aimed at regulating the adult entertainment business.

It categorizes nightclubs with pachinko halls and sex parlors and was an effort to control establishments that might corrupt young people and become a source of prostitution.

Bars and clubs in this category currently require licensing from local authorities and are prohibited from operating past midnight.

However, many dance clubs are believed to operate without a license because if authorities know of their existence they have to close early. Law-enforcement authorities have been stepping up crackdowns.

The latest legislative plan comes after a district court in April acquitted former Osaka nightclub operator Masatoshi Kanemitsu of debasing morals by allowing his patrons to dance.

Kanemitsu, 51, said, “I am uncomfortable with (dance clubs) being bound by the murky provisions of the law on adult entertainment.”

Most club owners who are caught accept a summary indictment and a fine, but Kanemitsu opted for indictment. After the lower court ruled in his favor, prosecutors appealed and the case is now pending at a high court.

A number of musicians and intellectuals, including composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, have voiced backing for reform, calling the midnight ban outdated.

An LDP panel discussed revising the law in June but did not approve it after opposition from members who argued it would lead to an increase in drunkenness and noise.

Government officials and LDP lawmakers have now worked out a framework for revising the law, the source said, adding that it would include sports bars and other entertainment venues that serve food and alcohol. “It would be unfair if only dance-related places are covered by relaxed rules,” some officials argued.

A panel of experts at the National Police Agency will discuss the proposed changes and the government will then draft legislation to revise the adult entertainment business law, the source said.

The revised framework envisages allowing licensed establishments providing entertainment and alcohol to stay open until 6 a.m. They would be required to refrain from serving heavily drunk patrons and from soliciting passers-by on the street.

Sports bars and darts bars are currently allowed to operate past midnight so long as they do not organize events such as competitions.

If the law is revised, musicians at jazz bars and similar venues would also be allowed to play on past midnight.

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