Open Container Ban Lifted

According to a new amendment that took force on Tuesday, public consumption of alcohol is allowed under certain circumstances, with more emphasis on flexible solutions and personal responsibility.

The Law Enforcement Act amendments were passed in February and make Estonia the most libertarian country in the region on alcohol consumption policy, with even strong alcohol allowed to be consumed openly. Open container law continues to apply to the vicinity of schools, youth camps and hospitals, as well as bus stops and public transport. Local governments will be left the option of prohibiting alcohol consumption on playgrounds and recreational trails.

Paul Pihelgas from the Northern Prefecture told ETV on Tuesday that the changes include a more flexible approach to limits on causing a disturbance. Up until now, the noise ordinance was enforced from 23:00 until 07:00, but now it has been changed to 22:00-06:00 on working days and from midnight to 07:00 on weekends.

The amendment also states the police should respond to calls ensure the best solution - in cases of causing a disturbance, the police will get involved only after repeated violations and when attempts to reach an agreement among residents have failed.

The law says that alcohol may not be consumed in a manner that is disruptive to others - determining the extent of distruption is the tricky part. According to Pihelgas, the police should be contacted if the offenders also litter and are consuming alcohol in a public place frequented by families, such as a park or a public stadium.

Spokesman of the Ministry of Justice told ETV in May that the focus is shifted to what constitutes public disturbance and alcohol consumption is viewed as part of that. Critics have said the change robs the police of one lever to prevent disturbance and relegates it to merely responding.

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