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Licence to serve alcoholic beverages

Kirjoittanut: Taru Jytilä - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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Whilst delivering catering services last summer we came up with queries from companies, if we could somehow include alcohol selling together with the catering options. We looked into it briefly and thought it could be too complicated at least within the short period of time we had before the actual selling season started. Now when we can relax for a bit , I thought of looking into the subject again. As we know we have many regulations and laws here in Finland when it comes to alcohol serving. If you have ever been abroad it seems like they are selling booze on the street, wherever they see that there could be possible customers. Guy is walking around the beach with cold container offering mojitos. There is no restrictions that they would not sell you if you are too drunk. If your going to watch movie , it is very unlikely that the teather would not serve beer for you. So why do we have so many rules here in Finland? That’s what I am going to figure out during this essay for you.


Historical moments

Kieltolaki was the biggest law that came to affect on the 1919’s and it lasted for 13 years. The main purpose was to reduce murders, fights and issues caused by heavy drinking.  During this period no one was allowed to sell nor to produce alcohol. Smuggling came popular and people started to smuggle alcohol from other countries. It was already noticed in the 1800 centuries that alcohol was creating social issues and causing poverty among the citizens. This prohibition was not successful and people started to find alcohol from the black market, as we see happening nowadays with drugs usage. After the prohibition ended, Finnish government got a monopoly position selling alcohol in Finland. Even today they are the only shops allowed to sell alcohol which contains more than 2,8 procentages of alcohol. Only the taxation for alcohol drinks brings the government 1,3 milliard every year. From the year 1969 it was allowed that you could start to sell beer in the normal grocery stores, every since then it has been one of the most popular drinks in Finland. Only just 4 years ago we could finally buy long drinks and strong beer ( over 4,7% ) from the grocery store, they used to be only sold in Alko. (Heinranta, 2013.)


Alcohol selling

Here in Finland there are several laws when it comes to alcohol selling. Let’s check some of the ground rules:

  1. You can only sell alcohol from 9 am to 21 pm if it contains more than 2,8 ‰.
  2. 18 year old can only buy max 22‰ containing alcohol products.
  3. 20 year old can buy any voltage containing alcohol products.
  4. Finnish alcohol is mainly sold by “ Alko”. Who has monopoly status in Finland and is the only retail shop selling booze that contains more than 5,5‰.
  5. Restaurant can sell alcohol as “take-away” as long as the alcohol is max 5,5‰.
  6. If the person buying alcohol or cigarettes looks younger than 30, seller needs to check ID.
  7. You have to have alcohol permit to sell or serve alcohol.
  8. You can only sell opened up bottles or served in a glass.

The main purpose of all the regulations and laws, that they are there to prevent over consuming and addictions to avoid problems within the society. ( Valvira, 2022.)

Catering events

It is needed for a catering company to have a alcohol license , in order to sell alcohol included in the package example in a case of wine tasting or catering event. Catering company may apply for a permit even thought they wouldn’t have a physical place , but they would need a “ accepted “ area where the alcohol serving has been already acknowledged. Everyone applying for alcohol permit has to have a manual how they are handling and storing the products.

Basically by applying for the alcohol license for company the catering company could provide alcohol in events if they have got “ permission to serve alcohol in this space advance “ which needs to be applied at latest 72 hours before the event. You can apply for the permission for the accepted alcohol space from the regional state administrative agency. This might be an option for our catering services that are handled in the saunaboats.  If we get the boat space accepted as a alcohol serving space and then inform the authorities always in adcance when alcohol serving in catering events would happen. ( Avi, 2022.)

Restaurant serving alcohol

There has to be a sufficient amount of workers to make sure the order is in place. Person serving alcohol has to be over 18 years old. A 16 year old worker may serve alcohol if a shift manager is there to supervise.

When you are selling alcohol you are not allowed to be drunk or under other intoxicated conditions.

If a customer is visibly too drunk or acting disturbingly you can not serve the client anymore. Normal serving license is valid from 9 am to 1:30 am. There are some special occasions you can serve until 3 am without a special permit. Alcohol can be consumed one hour after the selling has been ended.

There is a section in the official guidelines which states that you cant sell alcohol if its not in line with the good form. Example drinking competitions could put the clients in danger.

Restaurant can apply for extra serving time license which is from 1:30 am until 4:00 am. There has to be corresponding amount of security provided from the restaurant which is 1 security man per 100 clients.

If you are planning to use alcohol in the food making process, remember that you need a special license for that too.

Remember that you have to buy all the alcohol from Finnish monopoly Alko , or you might be sued. If the space if holding a alcohol permission, you can not serve alcohol that has not been bought by the restaurant. Even if there would be a private event and the clients would like to make a toast with champagne they brought from Estonia, they can not . It is illegal.

There are frequent check ups when the authorities come to check up your storage and that all the booze has been bought trough the official ways. Two times a year you have to inform Valvira how much alcohol have you sold, how much has gone to waste and how much you have in the storage. According to these statistics you have to pay for the government a surveillance fee.

Promoting strong alcohol is forbidden outside of business area. There is no limits for pricing the coctails or drinks. You can not sell two for one offers when it comes to alcohol.

According to the good form rules giving out “ free beer “ cards to customers is forbidden too although you can sell entrance to your restaurant which includes a free beer.

There used to be different alcohol licenses such as A,B and C. If you bought example the B permits you could only sell mild drinks such as beer and cider. We got rid of it in 2018 and everyone now shares a permit to serve which ever alcohol they see appropriately.

With the new law the restaurants can now sell alcohol to take away from 9-21 same as the grocery stores. This was a funny effect when Covid was going on, you could not serve beer inside the restaurant but you could sell it as a take away. Some of the bars were renting out foldable chairs and people could enjoy a drink in front of the bars outside.

With the new law change bars can serve alcohol until 4 am by just informing about it. ( Valvira, 2022. )



When organizing events in Finland you first have to decide if there is going to be alcohol included in the event / festival. It is strictly limited in Finland as has been established during this essay so you have to plan it well in order to get the license to sell alcohol.

It is clever to have at least 1-2 months time in order to get the permit for sure.

If creating an event that everyone can join, the space which serves alcohol has to be only for adults. Slowly the Finnish law has been a little bit more understanding when it comes to serving alcohol. Some of the new adjustments are that we can finally drink beer in movie theaters and ice-hockey stands, but of course they have to be separated areas.

This is a very positive change for huge festivals as now if the age limit for the event is 18 , the whole festival area can be serving area and no more small different sections for drinkers and non-drinkers is no longer needed. This was a very pleasant renovation in our old-fashioned system.

Price for the license example for events varies from 500€-900€. There has to be a manifest report which shows what problems the serving in this area might cause , how cleaning and organizing is managed in the workplace and how to affect risks that may occur in the workplace.

Finns are quite squeezy when it comes to alcohol, there are several people trying to smuggle in alcohol. There are even cases when people have buried alcohol in the festival area before building the are has began. They have carved out the inside of a book and hidden in a bottle of booze. Also smugglers have tried to hid products in their hair or inside bread products.

When applying for temporary permit focus on these matters:

  • Where are you planning to organize the event?
  • Has there been events before? Could it be already accepted as a serving space?
  • How long is the event ?
  • Resources – How to get water, electricity or the toilets? What are the precautions?
  • Security and working conditions – Break room ?
  • Who is the event for? only adults?
  • Forecast the tickets being sold – you can prepare with cash, toilets and security
  • Make a list of things needed – Counters, cold spaces, staff, trash and weather conditions

Remember that the drinks served in the alcohol area can not be taken out from there.

When applying for permit you have to present personnel planning, map of the area and manifest of what is being offered and how. Find out an average price one consumer might use during your event so you can calculate the approximate money flow. ( Avi, Valvira 2022. Lepistö, 2017.)





In a year 2021 Finland was the most expensive country in EU when it comes to alcohol selling. Alcohol in Finland costs around 120% more than the average price is in the EU countries. Cheapest alcohol in EU can be found from Hungary.

The only clear reason behind the high alcohol prices are to avoid problems within society by controlling our drinking habits. There has been found a clear connection between the alcohol selling prices and society problems especially in the lower income groups of people. In 2004 they lowered the alcohol tax and made importing alcohol more cheap and immediately there was a spike in alcohol related deaths and the consumption went up. It has been clearly proven that by placing high taxation the society is trying to protect the ones needing it the most. Even the researches done by WHO, are proving the same affect. By creating rules and restrictions there is a better chance to affect on the alcohol problems rather example would be by educating people. The taxation is the reason for the high prices. It has been proven that alcohol may cause physical and mental addiction problems. Most of the human kind are not drinking at all. Most of the adults in Finland use alcohol. They use it to go out with their friends, relaxation or to bury their stress from work. There is around 15 % of adult population in Finland that are not drinking alcohol at all.

Our society pays tremendous costs because of alcohol. We use around 2 milliard euros every year to deal with issues related to alcohol. Mental health problems, social service fees and health problems. We also see it as violence and crimes that the society is trying to prevent. There are 70 000 children who lives in a family with alcohol problems. It seems like it does not matter how high the prices are going, people still use alcohol, even if they could not afford it. Even though they are speaking that this is just a spike in the economies, I don’t believe the prices for alcohol would go more down in Finland. As we have seen, Finns just can’t control their alcohol usage. It would be fun to see tough would the consumption go trough the roof if the prices would go down? or would it have the opposite effect? ( Yle, 2022. )


Festival drinking habits


There was a research done by Nemeth ( 2011 ) which indicated some reasons why people visiting festivals are drinking alcohol. There is enhancement , which creates illusion that alcohol equals having fun and feeling euphoria. Festival users have social intentions to interact with people, there is also the fear of being left out. Some people also use drinking to forget bad occurrences or drink if they are feeling sad.

I would guess based on my own drinking habits or festival habits a normal adult person would use around 50-300 euros within a one day festival. Excluding the tickets of course.

High alcohol prices are annoying citizens, and you can probably notice that when organizing an event as well. If we think that a beer in a grocery store costs 2 euros, served in a glass the same beer will cost around 10 euros.

There was ice hockey championship organized in Tampere last year and we could see some of the world known celebrities tweeting about the high beer prices. Does the beer really need to cost 120 times more than in Spain so that Finns would behave better ?

Festivals gone bad in the history has been shown in the media. Most shown issues are mainly the same. Long lines and waiting time to use the restroom, order a beer and collect the tickets for the festivals. You would think these are facts that are quite easy to predict and to fix the issue , but still we see it happening almost in every festival.

Security and disorderly conduct has also been seen as an issue. People might behave offensive or are just too drunk. If artists or performers are cancelling that might have a huge impact on the image that has been created for the event.

Also equality is making people furious. There has been some cases that VIP – guests have been treated differently than the normal consumers and this has created rage within the guests.

More and more people are willing to use more money, buy exclusive tickets , if they can have more space and order the drinks more conveniently. Festivals should focus on this. ( Kinnunen, 2015.)





Aluehallintavirasto. Link: https://avi.fi/asioi/henkiloasiakas/luvat-ilmoitukset-ja-hakemukset/alkoholi-ja-anniskelu/anniskelulupa

Heinranta J. 2013. Thesis. Read on 2.08.2022 Link: https://osuva.uwasa.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/499/osuva_5405.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Kankaanpää P. 2019. Thesis. Read on 1.08.2022. Link: https://erepo.uef.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/22143/urn_nbn_fi_uef-20191228.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Kinnunen M. 2015. Link: https://journal.fi/matkailututkimus/article/download/90927/50040/147093

Lepistö J. 2017. Thesis. Link: https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/130867/Lepisto_Joni.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Pantzar M. 2022. Yle. Link: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-12503435

THL. Link: https://thl.fi/fi/web/alkoholi-tupakka-ja-riippuvuudet/alkoholi/alkoholipolitiikka/lait-ja-linjaukset/lainsaadannon-kehitys

Valvira, 2022. Link: https://www.valvira.fi/documents/14444/221693/Alkoholijuomien_anniskelu.pdf/7eb96d8e-1be8-c5d8-c08f-950738a1a9a3

Valvira. Link: https://www.valvira.fi/alkoholi/vahittaismyynti/vahittaismyyntiaika

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