Tallinn City Government greenlights late night alcohol sales restrictions

Alcohol sales in Tallinn bars, pubs, restaurants and similar could soon end at 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. at weekends. Source: Peter Nicholls/REUTERS/SCANPIX

Tallinn City Government has approved limiting alcohol sales at "entertainment facilities" from June 1 next year, Baltic News Service reports.

The regulations do however need to pass a vote at the council chamber.

Retail sale of alcohol at such facilities, principally bars, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs etc., would be prohibited from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. on "school nights", i.e. Sunday to Thursday and most other nights preceding a work day On Friday and Saturday nights, through to Saturday and Sunday mornings, sales can continue an hour later, to 3 a.m., then being barred until 7 a.m.

Restrictions to sales are, however, lifted for New Year's Eve and Jaaniöö (Jun. 23-24).

Exceptions to the law are also reported for hotels and other accommodation facilities, points of sale accessible to passengers-only at ferry terminals and Tallinn Airport, as well as casinos.

In the case of checked-in passengers at the ferry harbor and the airport, since they have left Tallinn City Government's administrative territory, the restrictions cannot apply.

In the case of checked-in passengers at the ferry harbor and the airport, since they have left Tallinn City Government's administrative territory, the restrictions cannot apply.

At present, 85 venues in Tallinn sell alcohol after 3 a.m., according to ERR's online Estonian news.

Estonian Chamber of Commerce opposes move

The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eesti Kaubandus‑Tööstuskoda) says that while the intent of the restrictions may be commendable, the restrictions themselves are unjustified, incomprehensible and disproportionate, and will create unequal treatment between different types of business operator.

The chamber found no basis for the restrictions as an appropriate solution to supposed anti-social issues surrounding alcohol sales, adding they were an over-simplified approach to thes problems, according to BNS.

Deputy Mayor: Only reasonable solution available

Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Aivar Riisalu (Centre) says the restrictions were drawn up in consultation with the police, entrepreneurs in the Old Town of Tallinn, as well as the Old Town Society (Vanalinna Selts), over an 18-month period, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Riisalu said that nonetheless the bill had to cover all of Tallinn since imposing different restrictions for the Old Town only would not be feasible.

"The need for a bill arose from the Old Town. The Old Town's problems have been in focus for years, and various litigation between the town and entertainment outlets has been ongoing for a while," Riisalu said at a press conference Wednesday.

One noted friction spot in recent years is the Suur-Karja/Väike Karja junction, where several bars and similar are located. Complaints about noise, drunkenness etc. from local residents have been ongoing.

Riisalu added that the decision had not been an "emotionally easy" one for him or the city's administartion, but was the only suitable solution.

"The goal is not to restrict business or people, this bill is a compromise of compromises," he went on, noting that while two Tallinn districts supported the bill, Nõmme abstained and Pirita opposed.

Riisalu also argued the restrictions will not affect the catering sector unduly, since out of a the thousands of restaurants operating in Tallinn, less than 200 serve alcohol after midnight.

Temperance union welcomes development

The Estonian Temperance Union (Eesti Karskusliit, link in Estonian) has  also praised the move, claiming that restricting access to alcohol is a tried-and-tested effective measure for curbing excessive alcohol consumption and relating issues.

The union noted that rights of those to consume or sell alcohol should not outweigh those of those who may suffer the associated effects, such as noise and disruption late at night.

Head of the Temperance Union Lauri Beekmann also said the union encourages the city government to continue to work towards obliging alcohol retail stores to be located further away from schools and kindergartens than the current law allows, imposing a 150-meter exclusion zone.

"The proposed 150-meter restriction would help solve a number of existing problematic situations as well as prevent similar stores from popping up in this area in the future," Beekmann said, according to BNS.

The restrictions, should they come into effect, cover Tallinn only. Other municipalities have taken differing views on issuing their own late-night alcohol sales restrictions. Tartu and Pärnu, Estonia's second and third cities, are not at present planning to follow Tallinn's lead, whereas the island of Saaremaa is mulling over doing so.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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