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March restaurant sales in Japan log fastest fall in nearly 30 years on virus

A sign promoting takeouts is seen outside an izakaya restaurant in Tokyo's Yurakucho district on April 3, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Restaurant sales in Japan plunged 17.3 percent in March from a year earlier, the sharpest drop in nearly 30 years, amid the coronavirus outbreak, an industry body said Monday.

    It was the first decline in five months and the pace of slide was the fastest since comparable data became available in January 1994, the Japan Foodservice Association said.

    But this month is expected to be worse with the government having declared a state of emergency, asking people to avoid nonessential outings and some businesses to shut. Restaurants have been requested to shorten their operating hours.

    "The restaurant industry is in dire straits as we're unable to expect visitors," the association said.

    Sales fell in all categories of restaurants, with bars and "izakaya," or Japanese-style pubs, marking a 43.3 percent fall.

    Restaurants in Japan normally see strong sales in March, the final month of the fiscal and academic year, with a large number of farewell and other parties held. But this year, many were canceled due to worries about the virus.

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