On 14 September the Finnish government submitted a proposal to Parliament for a comprehensive reform of the Alcohol Act that will be debated during the autumn session.
The new alcohol Act would allow grocery stores, kiosks and petrol stations to sell stronger alcoholic beverages than at present: stronger beers and ciders and long drink beverages produced by adding distilled alcohol containing no more than 5.5% by volume of ethyl alcohol.
Under the Act, the opening hours of restaurants and bars would be deregulated. The regular serving hours would still end at 1.30am, but restaurants and bars could continue to serve alcohol until 4am by notifying the authorities of the extension. The different types of serving licences for restaurants and bars currently in would be replaced by only one serving licence covering all types of alcoholic beverages and the qualification requirements for responsible managers in restaurants and bars would be made less stringent.
The new Alcohol Act would introduce the concept of craft beer, which the producers could sell directly at the place of production. Microbrewery products, or craft beers, would refer to alcoholic beverages produced primarily from malt by fermentation and containing no more than 12% by volume of ethyl alcohol.
Licensed premises would be able to sell alcoholic beverages to consumers for consumption off the premises in accordance with the normal retail sales rules.Retail stores would no longer be allowed to give customers rewards or pay bonuses for the purchase of alcoholic beverages. The ban would also apply to alcoholic beverages purchased abroad or on board ferries; all purchases of alcoholic beverages would be excluded from the bonus systems of Finnish retail stores. A similar ban is already in place for the sale of tobacco products.
No amendments are proposed to the provision on cross-border distance sales of alcoholic beverages, and distance sales would still be prohibited. The provision will be reconsidered once the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the EU Court of Justice case C-198/2014 Visnapuu concerning the ban on distance sales.