Justice chancellor: Police late-night alcohol sales bans not legal

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Recent bans on late-night alcohol sales in bars, restaurants and nightclubs, aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, do not comply with the law in terms of their enforcement, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise says. Those who feel their rights have been violated would have a case at an administrative court, she adds.

While the immediate entry into force of an order – the alcohol bans have been imposed in six of Estonia's 15 counties so far – is not in and of itself out of the question, Madise says, Estonian law would have it that the body enacting the law must must carefully consider the benefits for which an administrative act is granted.

"This is especially true if the administrative act establishes a substantially new rule, which has not been established by any norm so far," the chancellor said, according to ERR's online Estonian news. 

Madise also noted confusion that the law's arrival led to, with businesses often finding out about it only via the media, adding that it should have entered into force 10 days following its inception. 

"The order should not have been enforceable. The restriction on the sale of alcohol, whose underlying order was not served on alcohol retailer, but was published only in the media, is supposed only to have entered into force no earlier than the 10th day following its publication," she went on. 

For instance the order to bar late-night alcohol sales in Harju County, Estonia's most populous region and one which includes the capital, Tallinn, became public last Friday evening, August 28, and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) started enforcing it from the following Saturday evening. 

Madise added that she has informed the PPA about her concerns, and it has started to formally notify retailers of the order.

In addition to Harju County, bans were already in place in Tartu and Ida-Viru counties, following COVID-19 outbreaks there from late July onwards; Põlva, Valga and Võru counties have also received similar orders, ahead of this weekend's WRC Rally Estonia. 

Alcohol sales are forbidden after 11 p.m., through to the 6 a.m. the following morning.

The bans were intended to be "short term", and subject to review and pending public behavior, the PPA says. 

No bans are in place in the remaining nine counties of Estonia, and the government's current line is that a nationwide ban is not needed yet.

The law on alcohol sales in stores remains unchanged, and is forbidden after 10 p.m. nationwide.

Madise also says that those who feel the orders, or the PPA's actions in enforcing them, infringe on their rights can file an appeal with the first-tier administrative court, of which there are two, in Tallinn and Tartu, with additional courthouses in Pärnu and Jõhvi.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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