Tartu, Pärnu not following Tallinn lead in alcohol sales restrictions

Tartu mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform).
Tartu mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform). Source: Margus Ansu/Eesti Meedia/SCANPIX

Tartu and Pärnu, Estonia's second and third cities, are not likely to follow Tallinn's lead in possibly restricting alcohol sales late at night, though the island of Saaremaa may do so, according to ERR's online Estonian news.

Last week a proposal from Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre) would see entertainment establishments permitted to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. on weeknights and until 3 a.m. on nights preceding free days, if it were to pass, as well as the alcohol salespoint exclusion zone around schools being extended from its current 50-meter range.

Tartu mayor, Urmas Klaas (Reform) said that while the issue of rowdy, drunken behavior was not unfamiliar to his city's residents, this might be solved rather on a case-by-case basis.

Two particular nightspots on Tartu's Vallikraavi Street, Shooters, and Naiiv, may be subject to a 01.00 a.m. curfew, according to the article.

"There are also several nightclubs and amusements within the city space in Tartu. Right now, we are working to make sure that entrepreneurs, police and the city government work together to prevent nightclubs from taking too much of their lives to the streets, but fortunately we do not have the same extreme examples which are to be found in Tallinn," Klaas said.

Pärnu mayor Romek Koskenkranius (Pärnu Ühendab) said no restrictions were in the offing in his city, for the time being, adding the issue had not been a pressing one.

"Right now, this issue has not been raised so prominently on the council. If it does, the council will certainly discuss it and make its own decisions. After all, there is nothing forbidden about anything. I think this is still a matter of discussion."

On the other hand, member of Saaremaa rural municipality council and former interior minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) said that a bill introducing restrictions on alcohol sales had already passed its first reading.

Under its terms, alcohol sales at entertainment establishments on Saaremaa would end at 3 p.m. and may resume at either 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. (the proposed Kõlvart restrictions would also see alcohol allowed back on sale in bars, clubs etc. at 7.00 a.m. Alcohol in shops cannot be sold between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. the next day in Tallinn). 

However a common position on the exact timings had not yet been reached at the Saaremaa council chamber, Laanet said.

"Undoubtedly, the question arises as to why some times are seven, and some eight [a.m.]. It turned out that there is one such clause in the national legislation, whereby alcohol law is referred to as a part of law enforcement and a ban that can only be applied at night. The nighttime period ends at 7 a.m. on weekends and 8 a.m. on weekdays, "explained Laanet, who added that this loophole should be closed and local governments should be allowed to regulate alcohol sales within their own territory.

"It shouldn't be the case that the state can say that everyone can drink freely anywhere from 7 a.m. This is not a constitutional right," Laanet added.

The Tallinn City Government argument in favor of restricting alcohol sales times and locations near to schools were perhaps unsurprisingly directed at cutting down drunk and disorderly behavior and keeping drinkers away from childr

The Police and Border Guard Board says it receives on average, 65 calls a day in Tallinn, around one-third of which concern a fight or an incident of drunkenness. This rises to a half of all calls within the Old Town area.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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