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Business question effectiveness of solicitation rules enforcement

Date Posted: 2008-09-05

Businesses say a law prohibiting solicitation of customers to clubs, bars and restaurants isn’t being effectively enforced, and is calling on government to beef up the code.

On the first anniversary of the new law, which bans businesses from deploying barkers to lure customers into their establishments, hotels and non-hospitality industry businesses say police simply haven’t made the problem go away. The problem is particularly acute in Naha City’s Matsuyama entertainment district, where complaints abound.

“I look outside every morning at 5 a.m. and find lots of empty cans and leftover food around my hotel,” says one hotel manager. Hotel staff say they see barkers dumping the trash as they mill around the area. “Our customers are asking ‘Is law and order all right here in Okinawa?’ and seem anxious about those people,” said the front desk staff at the hotel. Police say they’ve arrested 32 barkers under the one-year-old law, but a volunteer group monitoring the situation say that’s not enough.

Barkers wearing dark suits and carrying radios to connect with their clubs are on the streets approaching passersby, asking “do you want to go drink” or “do you want women?” They try to steer people to their establishments. Barkers say “we’re afraid of the police patrols, but we have to work for a living, otherwise we can’t live.”

Barkers maintain “we know when the police are coming, and police arrest only one person per day. If the police pick up one person, we are safe, so we continue working the street.” Police say they’ve reduced the number of barkers milling in the Matsuyama district by 30%, “but we’ll never reduce it 100%. We need to do more work and watch steadily.”

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