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Over 700 eateries fail in FY 2020 in Japan, 3rd largest amid pandemic

A street filled with closed restaurants and bars is seen in Tokyo's Yurakucho area on Feb. 13, 2021. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of bankruptcies in Japan's eatery industry totaled 715 last fiscal year, the third largest in 20 years, in the wake of requests for shorter opening hours to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, a credit research firm said.

    The dour result for the year ended 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 yen ($91,000) or more.

    The total outcome follows a record 784 bankruptcies the previous year when the industry struggled with labor shortages and after a consumption tax increase to 10 percent from 8 percent, 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 percent with the government's "Go To Travel" and "Go To Eat" subsidy programs to support the tourism and restaurant industries paying 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 percent and 56.3 percent in January and February respectively, followed by a 2.6 percent decline in March.

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