The government has backed down on a plan to install alcohol consumption restrictions in bars and other entertainment establishments, and will instead look at revising closing times, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday night.
The government issued an order in September banning the sale of alcohol after 11.00 p.m., aimed at curbing rising coronavirus rates. The cut-off time was later extended to midnight.
However, bars, clubs etc. and their patrons have found ways around this, including purchasing larger quantities of drinks ahead of closing time and then consuming them over an extended period of time, the government's inspectors have found.
Rather than having to police people not finishing off drinks they have ordered before midnight, the government is looking at making closing time and end-of-alcohol-sales-time one and the same, and has scrapped the bill to curtail consumption after midnight, AK reported.
Economics affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) says that the bill had proved less practical than imposing new closing times, though what these would be has not been announced yet.
"We prepared the bill as tasked, but following discussions with the coalition, we found that in the current situation it would bring more clarity if we acted unequivocally," Aas told AK.
"If it is necessary to limit the consumption of alcohol, it is easier to simply close the venues at certain times," he added.
Further discussions and recommendations from the government's coronavirus scientific council would go ahead first, and it was too early to say if the regulations would be updated this week, Aas told AK.
Critics, including representatives of bars, clubs and other entertainment establishments, say that there is no correlation between the restrictions and COVID-19.
"We find that there is no direct connection with the corona here and these legislative restrictions are completely disproportionate," MTÜ Tallinna Meelelahutused, an NGO representing the sector in Tallinn, told AK.
Opposition MP and leader of the Reform Party's Tallinn city council chambers group Kristen Michel said that further restrictions should not be rushed.
"Current law in force today, via they Infectious Diseases Act, states that in cases of a viral disease, alcohol sales can run until midnight and then the outlets are closed at 1.00 a.m.," Michel said.
Alcohol sales in stores have long been banned after 10.00 p.m.
Editor: Andrew Whyte