Tartu considering time restrictions on alcohol sales

Alcohol in a bar (Photo is illustrative).
Alcohol in a bar (Photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Tartu City Government is considering introducing new time restrictions on the sale of alcohol. According to the police, doing so would reduce the number of early morning callouts to deal with incidents at the city's nightclubs, which have not fallen even during the summer.

With the influx of students, September is also likely to mean a resurgence in Tartu's nightlife. One of the university town's main hotspots is Ülikooli tänav, which is lined with four different nightclubs. It is here that the police are most often called out to deal with incidents, which occur in the early hours of the morning.

According to Berta Lusbo, manager of the city's Vabank nightclub, the number of problematic incidents has been on the rise in recent months.

"While we didn't usually need to ask the police for help, last month we called them out twice. Both incidents, I don't know if it was a coincidence or not, were related to foreign workers, or foreigners. And at the door, to send somebody away, we also had to call them out once or twice," Lusbo said.

Lusbo has also noticed the impact of increases in the general cost of living on such incidents.

"People consume alcohol in the comfort of their own homes, which is cheaper, and when they come out they're in a good enough mood. Then, if they've had a few cocktails in the club, it doesn't take much before problems start to arise," he said.

The municipality began trying to tackle the problem in the spring, with an agreement reached for most nightclubs to close their doors at half past four during the summer, which is half an hour earlier than usual.

"Later analyses have shown that this is not enough. The number of incidents has not changed over time and therefore the city and the city government are expected to make decisions to improve the situation," said Tartu Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm.

Ahto Kalda, manager of Level nightclub, which kept its doors open until 6 a.m. this summer, said that restrictions on alcohol sales would not be a good move for Tartu.

"Alcohol will start to move onto the black market, for example to the streets or taxis. From a controlled environment to an uncontrolled environment. This would not be good for anyone," he said.

The municipality is able to limit the times of day when alcohol can be sold. Tallinn nightclubs are required to stop serving alcohol at 3 a.m. the night before a working day and 4 a.m. on weekends, for instance. In Tartu however, there are currently no such limits, with nightclubs able to sell alcohol around the clock no matter what day it is.

"There are several places in Tartu that operate until the early hours of the morning and these people are still out on the streets. That's why we've reached the point where we have to somehow improve this situation," said Siim Linnard, head of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) Southern Prefecture.

Tartu City Council will discuss potential restrictions on the sale of alcohol in October.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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