A bill of amendments to the Alcohol Act and Advertising Act set to further restrict Estonia's alcohol policy, which passed first reading in the Riigikogu in March, has since been eased significantly in the Riigikogu, daily Postimees writes.
"We removed square meters [of the size of the stores] from the bill, and the new wording is that alcoholic beverages must not be placed so that consumers when visiting the stores would inevitably come into contact with them and they must not be visible in sales hall," Sven Sester (IRL), chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, told the paper.
Prior to the most recent discussion, the bill stipulated that stores with a sales area of more than 450 square meters must completely conceal the visibility of alcoholic beverages in their stores. According to the initial version of the Alcohol Act, small stores would have had to sell alcohol from behind the counter and large stores would have had to surround the sales area of alcohol with opaque walls.
Sester said that the wall requirement had been removed from bill before reaching the Riigikogu already, and the bill only stipulates limiting the visibility of alcohol. Now it will suffice for stores to turn their alcohol shelves so that they face away from the rest of the sales floor, and it will remain up to each retailer to decide how to limit the visibility of the alcohol.
The Economic Affairs Committee also decided to leave out of the bill a provision which would have obligated the stores to sell alcohol sold in multipacks at the same price as individual bottles. The committee also left out the ban on allowing alcohol tasting in grocery stores.
Advertising restrictions set on alcohol were also eased. "While until now only the product was allowed to be featured, then now a serving, that is a glass containing foaming beer, is also allowed," Sester said. He clarified that pouring beer into a glass would still be forbidden in the advert.
An amendment was made at the proposal of shipper Tallink and Tallinn Airport, according to which the sales restrictions set on regular stores do not apply to stores that are located in security areas and are accessible after going through a document check. The paragraph that would have forbidden alcohol sales in gas station had been removed from the bill earlier.
After a proposal filed by the Tallinn Old Town Society and the city's enterprise department, local governments will be given the opportunity to restrict the time of alcohol sales in dining establishments during curfew. "But this decision must have calculated reasons," Sester said.
The Riigikogu is to resume discussing the bill next Tuesday, which is scheduled to be adopted into law on Dec. 20.
As handling the bill has taken longer than planned, the dates of entry into force were also changed. Provisions concerning advertising restrictions are to enter into force on June 1, 2018. Stores, meanwhile, will be given a year and a half for the reorganization of their premises, and the provisions affecting them are to enter into force on June 1, 2019.
Editor: Aili Vahtla