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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A Misawa city bar operated by an American is off-limits to military personnel here following what base officials call a rash of fights at the establishment and threats made by bar owner Scott Sanders.

Brig. Gen. Bill Rew, the 35th Fighter Wing and installation commander, signed the order a week ago Friday banning all military personnel assigned to Misawa — including tenant commands — from American Bar, said 35th Security Forces Squadron Commander Maj. Joe Milner.

Police just now are starting to enforce the edict since it was announced by unit commanders and on American Forces Network radio and television this week.

Milner said the general’s decision was based on several factors: “There were some threats against the base populace from the American Bar owner, as well as quite a few incidents of military personnel involved in assaults among themselves and with the owner,” he said. “[This is] for the safety of the bar owner and our servicemembers’ safety.”

Sanders, a 42-year-old retired defense contractor who has lived in Japan since 1985, calls the ban and the base’s accusations against him “absolutely ridiculous.”

“This is as bad as an innocent person being shot,” he said, speaking by phone from what he characterized as his very empty downtown bar Thursday night.

“I’ve been in the bar business for seven years and I’ve never had this problem,” Sanders said.

Milner said more than 10 assaults have been reported at the American Bar in recent memory, though none resulted in serious injury.

Milner said the latest incident, two weeks ago, involved allegations of assault and stolen money.

Sanders also threatened military members along the lines of “somebody’s going to get hurt,” Milner said. “That added a secondary level.”

According to Sanders’ version, the incident involved a drunken lieutenant and staff sergeant, both Air Force members. They got into a scuffle and “started swinging, knocking drinks onto the floor, breaking glass,” Sanders said.

They ended up taking off without paying their 2600 yen (about $23) bar tab and stole 5000 yen (about $45) left on the counter for a liquor vendor, Sanders alleged.

Sanders was mad, so he left a message on the commander’s access line to report the theft, he said. He believes his complaint was wrongly taken to be a threat.

Milner said his police will keep an eye on the place: Any military member seen leaving American Bar will be arrested for failure to obey an order. Possible consequences will be determined by one’s commander but range from verbal counseling to an Article 15, he said.

Civilians and spouses are encouraged not to patronize the bar but the order isn’t legally binding on them, Milner said.

No other bars in Misawa are off-limits to military personnel.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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