The purpose of the Alcohol Act is to reduce the consumption of alcoholic substances by limiting and supervising related economic activity to prevent the damaging effects of alcohol on consumers, other persons and society in general (Alcohol Act, Section 1). One of the economic activities that is limited and supervised is the serving of alcoholic beverages.
An alcoholic substance means a substance and product that contains more than 1.2% ethyl alcohol by volume and an alcoholic beverage is defined as a beverage that contains a maximum of 80% ethyl alcohol by volume (Alcohol Act, Section 3).
Serving of alcohol is subject to licence
Serving of alcoholic beverages means the sale of alcoholic beverages to be consumed on premises controlled by the seller or under the seller’s supervision (Alcohol Act, Section 3).
The seller must apply for and receive a licence to serve alcohol before starting operations. Alcoholic beverages containing more than 2.8% alcohol may not be sold without a licence (Alcohol Act, Sections 5 and 6). It is also prohibited to broker or transfer alcoholic beverages against commissions (Alcohol Act, Section 84).
It is prohibited to consume alcoholic beverages on the premises of a restaurant establishment or at other locations where food or other refreshments are provided to consumers for payment, or at a public event referred to in the Assembly Act. The owner of the premises, the organiser of the event or security personnel may not allow drinking of alcoholic beverages on premises if the venue does not have a valid licence to serve alcohol. (Alcohol Act, Section 85).
All previously granted and valid licences to serve alcoholic beverages entitle their holders to serve all types of alcoholic beverages as from 1 March 2018 (Alcohol Act, Section 93).
It is not permitted to engage in operations contrary to good practice in the serving of alcoholic beverages. Operations are considered contrary to moral principles if they are in clear violation of accepted societal values and especially if they are accepting of or indifferent to taking health risks under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating substances, medicinal products or chemicals (Alcohol Act, Section 4).
According to the Government proposal on the Alcohol Act, the package pricing of food and accompanying alcoholic beverages might not necessarily be contrary to good practice, whereas serving alcohol on a “drink as much as you want” basis at a certain price may be, depending on how it is marketed and served. Likewise, in certain situations the serving of alcoholic beverages on credit to vulnerable consumer groups, for instance, may be prohibited as contrary to good practice on the basis of a comprehensive evaluation.
The self-supervision plan for the licensed premises must indicate the maximum amount of credit determined by the licence holder and procedures for operating and overseeing sales on credit if alcoholic beverages are sold to consumers on credit using means other than commonly used payment cards or payment applications processed by credit institutions, or in connection with programme services or accommodation (Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Section 4).
According to the Government proposal, organising drinking competitions, for instance, could jeopardise the health of customers if such competitions involve drinking a large volume of alcoholic beverages very quickly. In serving alcoholic beverages, it may on the same grounds be contrary to good practice to sell or permit the consumption of alcohol that is consumed in an unusual way, such as inhalation or absorption though mucus membranes.
Solid products containing alcohol with an ethyl alcohol content of no more than 2.8% by weight, such as chocolate sweets or ice cream, may be sold without restriction. The retail sale, serving and marketing of products with a higher alcohol content are subject to the provisions concerning alcoholic beverages in the Alcohol Act, such as age limits. The retail sale and serving of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 2.8% by volume are subject to a licence, and Alko has a monopoly on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 5.5% by volume. In applying the
Alcohol Act to solid products, their alcohol content by weight shall be considered in lieu of alcohol content by volume. (Alcohol Act, Section 55).