Yokosuka bar owner says Navy ban ‘unreasonable’
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The U.S. Navy’s decision declaring ShallTown Bar “off-limits” to all naval personnel is “unreasonable” and would dry up business at the sailor-centered bar, the bar’s manager said Wednesday.
“It is understandable if it was our fault,” said Katsunari Nakagawa. But the bar follows the rules and so do most of ShallTown’s customers, he said, despite the five sailors who got into a fight there early Sunday.
Navy officials told ShallTown’s owner Monday that all naval personnel are barred from the premises. ShallTown is located just outside Yokosuka Naval Base in the “Honch” nightlife district.
The instruction first came from base commanding officer Capt. Greg Cornish and the base’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Board.
Further endorsement by Commander, Naval Forces Japan commanding officer Rear Adm. James Kelly turned the rule into a lawful general order.
Nakagawa said a four-on-one fight erupted inside the bar among USS Blue Ridge sailors the day before the announcement.
Employees turned off the music and flipped on the lights and the U.S. military shore patrol standing outside handled the situation, he said.
“We run the business hoping to provide a place where they can relax,” Nakagawa said. “It is terrible.”
According to base spokesman Bill Doughty, ShallTown was not meeting “safety and welfare” standards for servicemembers.
“We expect establishments that are patronized by servicemembers to provide an atmosphere that promotes their health and welfare,” Doughty said.
“This includes verifying servicemembers have attained the lawful drinking age, maintaining a reasonable number of patrons to ensure safety, not serving servicemembers who have over-consumed alcohol and having employees that are dedicated to the safety of patrons.”
Nakagawa said the bar also is connected to two other incidents: USS Kitty Hawk airman William Oliver Reese, accused in the Jan. 3 robbery-murder of a Yokosuka woman, was drinking at the bar before the attack, Nakagawa said.
He added that ShallTown also was involved in a recent sexual assault investigation.
Though ShallTown is the only “off-limits” bar in Yokosuka, barring bars is nothing new, said CNFJ spokesman Jon Nylander.
“That strategy has been around forever — the military has been doing that as far back as the ’20s and ’30s,” Nylander said.
“It’s used in other places in the world, as well as in the U.S. I saw it in Yokosuka here in the ’60s-’70s.”
But the decision weighs heavily on ShallTown, as sailors make up 80 percent to 90 percent of the bar’s customers, Nakagawa said.
Business at ShallTown and other establishments in the Navy-dependent Honch already was hurting from the 1 a.m. curfew set after the robbery-killing, he said.
“All our employees may get thrown out in the streets” due to the ban, Nakagawa said. “The bar may have to close down within this month.”