• Kyodo

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The number of bankruptcies in Japan's dining industry totaled 715 the last fiscal year, the third largest in 20 years, amid the new coronavirus pandemic, a credit research firm said.

The dour result for the year ending March 31 reflects 183 failures in the bar and beer hall sector, the highest since fiscal 2000 when comparative data became available, Teikoku Databank said in a recent survey report on firms that went bankrupt with debts of ¥10 million ($91,000) or more.

The total number follows a record 784 bankruptcies the previous year when the industry struggled with labor shortages and after a consumption tax increase to 10% from 8%, a Teikoku Databank official in charge of the survey said.

"It is hard to expect the bankruptcy figure to fall sharply" in the current fiscal year, given requests to cut operating hours remain and new cases are surging again in Osaka and some other prefectures, the official said.

Still, the start of coronavirus vaccinations, stimulus measures and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics slated for this summer should help spur consumer sentiment and improve the business environment in the industry, he added.

In the first eight months, monthly bankruptcy cases mostly rose from a year earlier. But the trend changed in December when they sagged 31.3% as the government's Go To Travel and Go To Eat subsidy programs to support the tourism and restaurant industries paid off.

Financial aid for restaurants and bars that complied with requests to close by 8 p.m. under the second state of emergency also contributed to reducing business failures in the final few months of the last fiscal year, the official said.

The numbers of failed eateries dropped 36% and 56.3% in January and February respectively, followed by a 2.6% decline in March.

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