Reform of the Alcohol Act
The Parliament of Finland adopted the new Alcohol Act on 15 December 2017 and it came into force at a whole on 1 March 2018.
Qualification requirements to be eased, permit bureaucracy to be dismantled
In future there should be an adult person in charge on every shift, but they will not be subject to any particular qualification requirements. Under-age persons from the age of 16 will in future be able to serve customers under the supervision of the shift manager.
The A, B and C licensing classifications for pubs and restaurants will be abolished, so in future pubs and restaurants will be able serve all alcoholic beverages will one licence – and decide their range of beverages themselves.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to have joint serving areas (e.g. food courts). In future it will be possible to remove the fencing between serving areas at public events if there are no under-age persons at the event.
In future a simple notification will allow pubs and restaurants to serve in function rooms (e.g. corporate events).
Opening hours to be liberalised, stewarding to change
Pubs and restaurants will be free to decide on their opening hours. Pubs and restaurants will be able to stay open by notification up to 4 a.m. and in future will be able to start serving at 7 a.m.
During extended opening hours between 1.30 a.m. and 4 a.m. there will generally need to be one steward per hundred customers in pubs and restaurants 01:30-04:00. Under the law, stewards will be able to perform duties other than stewarding.
Measure requirements to be abolished
The new law does away with the measure requirements. In future customers will be able to legally order several measures at once (e.g. double whiskies) and will be able to collect drinks from the bar for others than themselves.
Happy hours to return
Pubs and restaurants will again be able to have happy hours. In future happy hour offers will be able to be advertised, e.g. on the street or in newspapers.
Off-premises sales licences 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
In future pubs and restaurants will be able to obtain retail sales permits for alcoholic beverages. Every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. customers will be able to buy the same alcoholic beverages in licensed pubs and restaurants as in shops.
Credit card payments to be allowed
In future it will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages on credit (Finnish and international credit cards). Mobile payment, however, will not be allowed.
According to estimates by PAM, employment in the hospitality sector will increase, especially due to the easing of opening hours regulations. It is hard to give a precise estimate of the employment impacts of the changes, because at this stage it is not known how many pubs and restaurants plan to stay open until 4 a.m. A rough estimate is that employment in the sector will increase by around 500 persons. Most of these workers would probably work part-time in shifts towards the end of the night.
At a rough estimate, employment in the security guarding sector would increase by between 200 and 400 persons, the majority being part-time stewards working towards the end of the night.
Ranges to expand
In future grocery stores will be able to sell alcoholic beverages with a maximum strength of 5.5%. The change means that grocery stores will be able to sell strong beer, proper long drinks and stronger ciders and alcopops.
As well as grocery stores, strong beers and other beverages under 5.5% will be available at kiosks and service stations.
The new law will not introduce any changes to stewarding in shops, kiosks or service stations.
According to estimates by PAM, employment in grocery stores will increase. Some of the changes affecting employment stems from part of Alko’s sales shifting to grocery stores and some of the employment impacts would come from reduced imports by travellers. A rough estimate of the increase in employment in the sector is around 500-1000 persons. Some jobs would be full-time and some part-time.
In future Alko shops will be allowed to stay open an hour longer on weekdays, i.e. until 9 p.m.
The new law will permit Alko to serve customers from its mobile shop. The mobile shop’s route must serve permanent and seasonal residents and must be validated by the licensing authority. That means that mobile shops selling alcoholic beverages will not be able to stop off at public events or deliver alcoholic beverages to customers’ homes. Alko has no plans for this at present, however.
A fall in sales
The new law will bring stronger alcoholic beverages into grocery stores. Alko has estimated that this will affect both its network of stores and its sales. Alko’s own estimate is that sales of beer, cider and long drinks will decrease by around 70–90%, with sales migrating mostly to grocery stores. It is estimated that the possible drop in sales will decrease Alko’s turnover by several per cent. After the change of the Alcohol Act, the sales of long drinks in Alko dropped by 49 percent and the sales of beers 31 percent in year 2018.
Employment impacts in Alko stores
PAM estimates that employment at Alko will decrease as sales move to shops. Alko’s store network currently employs around 2000 persons including supervisors. It will only be possible to estimate the impacts later, however. In the year of 2018, not a single Alko store was closed, but yeat four new stores were opened.