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The Alcohol Act will enter into force in March

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
28.12.2017 14.10 | Published in English on 3.1.2018 at 12.06
Press release 215/2017

The new Alcohol Act that has been long in the preparation will enter fully into force on 1 March 2018. However, some of the changes will become effective already on 1 January 2018. The new Alcohol Act will combine the 13 Regulations previously adopted under the old Act. A significant number of outdated and old-fashioned norms have been excluded from the new Act. The President of the Republic confirmed the Alcohol Act on 28 December.

 The purpose of the Alcohol Act continues to be the prevention of negative effects of alcohol. The reform will also maintain Alko’s retail monopoly and the existing licensing system for retail sale of alcoholic beverages.

Some of the changes will become effective already on 1 January 2018

A few changes will enter into force right after New Year on 1 January. Shops will be allowed to sell strong beers, ciders and long drink beverages, restaurants may advertise their happy hour discounts, retail sale licences may be applied for craft beers, and rules on online price listings will be made less restrictive. Regulations concerning restaurant opening hours will be removed, but the changes concerning the serving hours will not become effective until 1 March 2018. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health issued a statement on these changes before Christmas (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health news item 19 December 2017).

Outdated and rigid norms, particularly regarding restaurants, have been simplified

In the future, a single licence to serve alcohol will be sufficient for serving all alcoholic beverages. Separate A, B and C type licences will no longer exist. Restaurants can apply for a licence for retail sale of alcohol daily between 9 am and 9 pm. The rules will be the same as for the other types of alcohol retail sale.

According to the new Act, an adult manager must be present during each shift, but no specific qualification criteria is set for this person. Persons who are 16 years of age may serve alcohol at a restaurant under the supervision of the shift manager.

In the future, restaurants will be allowed to share serving areas. In addition, the previous system of temporary serving licences will be replaced by a system involving less bureaucracy. The so-called catering permits will allow restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages in pre-approved business premises, venues and festivals after they have submitted notice of this to the Regional State Administrative Agency.

The regular serving hours will end at 1:30 am in the future as well. However, restaurants may continue to serve alcohol until 4 am by notifying the authorities. This means there will no longer be any licensing process, but restaurants will have more obligations to maintain public order. Moreover, restaurants will no longer be obligated to close their doors half an hour after their serving hours have ended, but their customers must consume their drinks within one hour of the end of serving. The authorities may restrict or prohibit the serving of alcohol to prevent public disturbances.

Alko’s retail monopoly will remain in effect – restriction of cross-border distance selling is being investigated

The new Act will permit Alkos to extend their opening hours by one hour from the previous 8 pm to 9 pm. In the future, Alkos may also arrange wine auctions, for example. When voting on the new Alcohol Act on 19 December, Parliament required that the Government clarify the ambiguous regulations regarding distance selling of alcohol (Parliament press release 19 December 2017, In Finnish). Parliament requires that Alko continues to have the exclusive right to retail trade in alcoholic beverages. At the same time, it must be ensured that Finnish traders are on a par with foreign sellers of alcoholic beverages. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has appointed a working group to investigate the restriction of cross-border distance selling of alcoholic beverages. The working group’s term will end on 31 March 2018 (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health press release 22 December 2018).

Further information

Government Counsellor Ismo Tuominen, tel. +358 (0)2951 63341 (the Alcohol Act reform)
Director Kari Paaso, tel. +358 (0)2951 63340 (distance selling of alcohol, in particular)

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