Nighttime Tartu alcohol sales ban leads to near-deserted city streets

Central Tartu on Friday night.
Central Tartu on Friday night. Source: ERR

The effects of restrictions on nighttime alcohol sales in Tartu County immediately made themselves known after being imposed Friday, particularly in Tartu city. The ban was issued in response to a coronavirus outbreak in Estonia's second city.

Alcohol in pubs, clubs and restaurants cannot be sold after 11 p.m. as ordered by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Friday. ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported from Tartu and showed deserted streets and reduced takings for local traders after midnight after nightspots closed down, in a city whose summer weekend nightlife would normally roll on for considerably longer.

Some establishments had already closed their doors ahead of the ban. Nightclub Vabank, thought to be the source of the recent outbreak after a carrier visited the club on July 18, is shut till the end of August, and bar Naiiv, also epicenter of a spate of cases, is closed for the next few days.

Tarvi Uusen, owner of the Väike Vine, said people had been understanding, even after having been told they could not buy alcoholic drinks after 11 p.m. At the same time, he was puzzled about the need for the measure.

"Unlike in the spring, when a regulation was put in place that a bar should be really closed at ten o'clock, I was very surprised why [the current regulation] is in place. As a rule, we would have a queue of 20 people around this time on Friday night, and I think the turnover would have been three times higher than it has been today. But alas, this is the situation and we have to come to terms with it," he told AK.

The PPA agreed that Tartu city center was a different place from what it would be on a regular Friday night, with patrons behaving responsibly and no violations of the ruling found.

The PPA initiated the ban, which runs to 6 a.m. the following morning, after the national government gave it the go-ahead on Thursday. The PPA says it will regularly review the situation before any changes are likely to be made.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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