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Alcohol curfew regulations likely to be changed in Latvia

Nina Kolyako, BC, Riga, 16.07.2009.Print version
It is highly probable that the law on sale of alcoholic beverages in Latvia will be amended, Assistant Chairman of Saeima's Economic Committee Vents Armands Krauklis (People's Party) announced today.

This could result in changing the alcohol curfew times, writes LETA.


The decision on amending the legal regulations will be made later today, at the Saeima committee meeting.


The first experts' discussion regarding this issue took place earlier today. Of the discussion participants, only the Health Ministry and the Tobacco and Alcohol Supervisory Coalition of Latvia categorically opposed beer producers' proposal to lift the ban on selling beer from 10 p.m. until 8 .a.m..


At the discussion, member of the board of the Association of Latvian Alcohol Producers and Retailers (LAPR), Edmunds Demiters, underlined that it is necessary to lift the curfew on all alcoholic drinks, not just beer, as otherwise the competition in the alcohol market would be distorted.


Also Latvian Merchants' Association President Henriks Danusevics believes the alcohol curfew should be lifted or at least be changed to start at midnight.


A number of discussion participants pointed out that lifting the ban on alcohol sales at nighttime would boost sales of legal alcohol and reduce illegal retail.


Addiction Prevention Projects Director Dace Freiberga, said that she was not against lifting the ban, pointing out that youth willing to get drunk would find ways to do it whatever the curfew times.


State Police Riga Regional Administration Chief Andris Dzenis pointed out the need to improve control over illegal alcohol sales.


Aldaris Brewery Chairman of the Board Inara Sure said that allowing to sell beer at night will only raise beer consumption by six liters per one resident per year, but it will rescue the sector from collapsing.


Latvian Small Breweries Association's representative Peteris Linins urged members of the parliament to act responsibly and support the industry, not only create additional burdens by raising taxes on beer.


As reported, Latvian beer producers and retailers had turned to the Finance Ministry and the Economy Ministry with a proposal to lift the ban on selling beer at nighttime.

Sure stressed that breweries hope that this would help them avoid a steep fall in the beer production business, as well as help the state budget collect the planned revenue.


According to beer producers' estimates, beer sales will decrease 10-20% on the average due to the increased excise tax rate, which will also have a notable impact on the budget's revenue.


"We believe that lifting the restrictions on beer sales at this time is practically the only way to keep the traditional beer production business from faltering and ensure the planned budget revenue," said Sure.


That is why the beer producers and retailers urge the government to urgently amend the law on distribution of alcoholic beverages, to avoid a drop in beer sales in Latvia and collect as much revenue as originally planned. "We also expect that lifting the restrictions on beer sales, the pressure from bootleg alcohol on the Latvian economy will decrease," added Sure.


Several Saeima members have already expressed support for the initiative, as well as several members of the Saeima Budget and Finance Committee, said Sure.


All the members of the beer production business signed the letter to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy, as did the Latvian Merchants Association.


The law currently prohibits sale of beer, wine and hard liquor from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

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