News Column

Law revision eyed to allow dance clubs to run all night

August 11, 2014



Government 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, following a failed attempt to revise the relevant law in June.

Eyeing legislation in a parliamentary session this fall at the earliest, they are planning to replace the outright ban with a requirement for club and bar owners to obtain a license for extended operations from prefectural public safety commissions, according to the source.

Critics say they need to see the details of the envisaged legislative move that still keeps dance clubs within the scope of the law regulating adult entertainment business.

Dance clubs have been categorized in the same league as pachinko gambling parlors and sex parlors in Japan subject to the law, which was drafted to control establishments considered to have potential to corrupt young people and become hotbeds of prostitution.

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

Many dance clubs are believed to operate without license, since notifying the authorities entails closing shop late at night, while law-enforcement authorities have been stepping up crackdowns.

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

Kanemitsu, 51, said, "I feel a sense of discomfort for (dance clubs) being bound by murky provisions of the adult entertainment business law."

Most club owners subject to crackdowns opt for summary indictment by paying fines but Kanemitsu did not and faced indictment. After the lower court ruled in his favor, prosecutors appealed and the case is now pending at a high court.

Musicians and intellectuals including composer Ryuichi Sakamoto have also been calling for scrapping the midnight ban, branding it outdated.

An LDP panel discussed a law revision in June but did not approve it after opposition from members who said it would lead to an increase in problems with drunken customers and noise.

The government officials and LDP lawmakers have worked out a framework for the law revision also covering sports bars and other entertainment venues that serve food and alcohol, the source said. Some officials said that "it would be unfair if only dance-related places are covered by relaxed rules."

After discussions by a panel of experts at the National Police Agency, the government is expected to work out legislation to revise the adult entertainment business law, the source said.

The revised framework envisages licensed establishments providing entertainment facilities and alcohol allowed to operate until 6 a.m. They would be required to refrain from providing alcohol to heavily drunk patrons and from soliciting customers on the street.

Sports bars and darts bars are currently allowed to operate past midnight so long as they do not organize competitions and other events, according to a source familiar with the industry.

If the law is revised, live music performances at jazz bars and live houses will also be allowed past midnight.



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Source: Japan Economic Newswire


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