Tallinn wants tougher alcohol restrictions

Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center).
Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Tallinn deems it necessary to lay down time of day restrictions for the sale of alcohol in entertainment establishments and boost mandatory distance between alcohol shops and child care institutions, Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart announced on Wednesday.

Kõlvart said it is abnormal Tallinn bars sell alcohol at all hours of the night and that such bars often stay open until morning. "I believe it is not necessary to support enterprise that harms people's health and safety. I see the need for alcohol restrictions at certain hours," the mayor said.

Kõlvart added that it is not the city's goal to close bars, while restrictions are in order, and such a possibility is provided by the law.

"Tallinn has proposed this in the past (alcohol sale restrictions – ed.), the state was behind it, and if back then it concerned shops, the time has come to talk about bars," the mayor said, adding that the city needs the government's help in that quiet time ends at 7 a.m. starting when it is permitted to sell alcohol again.

"I'm sure there is no need to sell alcohol at seven in the morning, nor should there be," Kõlvart noted.

The city's proposal would allow entertainment establishments to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. on weeknights and until 3 a.m. on nights preceding days off starting in June.

Deputy Mayor Kalle Klandorf said that the results of the city's partial success in seeking tougher restrictions in the so-called Bermuda triangle of bars in Tallinn's Old Town can be felt today.

"Statistics suggests crime of all types has come down 10 percent in the Old Town since then. It is major progress and worth pursuing. Back then (before restrictions were laid down – ed.) it was a problem that alcohol was sold unchecked," Klandorf said.

Alcohol away from shops and kindergartens

Secondly, Tallinn wants to move shops that sell alcohol further away from childcare institutions. Today, a business selling alcohol cannot be within 50 meters of a childcare institution.

"We need a more serious restriction and the distance needs to grow to 150 meters. We do not want our children to witness the sale of alcohol and its results near shops, and people consuming alcohol," Mihhail Kõlvart said.

Mustamäe city district elder Lauri Laats gave concrete examples from his district. He said the situation is depressing near the 37th High School where a bar that opens "very early" and closes "very late" lies just 30-40 meters from the school. "Drunk people literally roll out of the bar, and children see it on their way to school in the morning," Laats described.

Another very problematic place is the Szolnok area where an alcohol shop lies 100 meters from a kindergarten and 200 meters from a school.

"And the patrons aren't exactly pleasant people to be around," Laats noted, adding that he is fully behind the city government's initiative.

Kõlvart wants to avoid repeat of excise duty blunder

Kõlvart said the city government hasn't drawn up any draft legislation or made relevant decisions yet and urged a public debate on the subject of alcohol restrictions.

"Today, we are talking about it theoretically as we want to publicly discuss this matter. It would not be wise to follow the timeline of changes to alcohol excise duty policy where first there was a decision, followed by an analysis, then debate and then another decision," the mayor said, adding that concrete proposals will follow public debate.

Kõlvart added that talk of restrictions did not arise out of the blue but is the result of efforts made throughout this summer. "It was not always our (the city government's) initiative – we were approached by entrepreneurs and various organizations, not to mention the Old Town Society and residents of Mustamäe and Lasnamäe," he said.

The mayor said that this topic ties into two core values for him: health and safety. "Someone might say restrictions infringe on freedoms, but one person's freedom ends where another's begins," he said.

Police: more than half of Old Town calls tied to alcohol

Head of the City Center Police Department Kaido Saarniit said various studies show that restrictions have a positive effect on security.

"Other countries' practical experience shows that stopping the sale of alcohol in entertainment establishments earlier in the evening lowers the number of offenses and accidents. An intoxicated person is both more likely to commit offenses and fall victim to a crime or accident. Sales restrictions could manage these risks as they prevent overuse of alcohol that is at the root of the problem," Saarniit said.

In Tallinn, the police receive, on average, 65 calls a day, around one-third or 20 of which concern a fight or a drunk person. Fights and drunk people are behind more than half of calls in the Old Town.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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