Finland - Availability

On 1 January 2018, the maximum strength of alcoholic beverages sold in retail stores was raised to 5.5% alcohol by volume, and the requirement for production by fermentation was removed. This means that grocery shops, kiosks and petrol stations can sell also strong beers and ciders and long drink beverages produced by adding strong alcoholic beverages. That change lifted the 4.7-per cent limit that has been in force since the 1960s. The new Alcohol Act was voted in December 2017 with a result of 98-94 to back the change, even though Parliament’s own committee for social affairs and health, and other lawmakers opposed lifting the limit. The Social Affairs and Health Committee of the Parliament had recommended that the current limit of 4.7 % be kept, and a professor at Helsinki University called the raising of the limit “the worst decision in his lifetime.” 

 

As of 1 January 2018, independent breweries and microbreweries have the right to sell their own craft beers at the brewery in the same way as producers of fruit wine and sahti can sell their products. Microbreweries will be allowed to produce up to 500,000 litres of alcoholic beverages. Craft beers cannot be produced by mixing beer with soft drinks, for example.

The Act will give the existing stores on wheels the right to sell alcoholic beverages and allow Alko to serve customers in its stores on wheels.

The opening hours of Alko stores will be extended by one hour, from 20 to 21. Alko stores will also be able to organise wine auctions, for example.

Restaurants will be allowed to share serving areas. The system of temporary serving licences will be replaced by a system with less administrative burden. The so-called catering permits will allow restaurants and bars to serve alcoholic beverages in pre-approved business premises, venues and festivals after they have submitted notice of this to the relevant regional state administrative agency.

The regular serving hours still end at 1.30am. However, restaurants and bars can continue to serve alcohol until 4.00am after notifying the regional state administrative agency of the extension. There is no longer any licensing process. However, restaurants and bars have new obligations to maintain public order. Restaurants and bars are no longer obligated to close their doors half an hour after their serving hours have ended. However, they have to make sure that their customers consume their drinks within one hour of the end of serving. The authorities have the power to restrict or prohibit serving of alcohol to prevent public disturbances.

In March 2019 Alko announced that it sold a total of 85.3 million litres of alcoholic beverages in 2018, signalling a drop of 8.5 per cent from the previous year. Last year its net sales decreased by roughly 20 million euros to 1,155 million euros and net sales without alcohol tax by roughly 30 million euros to 565 million euros.  Its operating profit, meanwhile, decreased by over six million euros to 46 million euros between 2017 and 2018. The primary reason for the noticeable decrease in sales was the introduction of beverages with an alcohol content of 4.7–5.5 per cent to the shelves of grocery shops.
Source: Ministry of Social Affairs and Health

Alko

Alcoholic beverages are also sold in licensed restaurants and bars but only for consumption on the premises. Alko is required by law to sell drinks with lower alcohol content than 5.5% and non-alcoholic alternatives, but in practice carries a very limited stock of low alcohol beer, cider and non-alcoholic drinks and others as supermarkets are allowed to sell those at a substantially lower price. By law, alcoholic drinks may only be sold to those aged 18 or above. There were 352 Alko shops in 2016.


Opening hours:
Mon–Thu    9–21 or 9–18
Fri    9–21
Sat    9–18 or 9–16
All stores are closed on Sundays. Some stores open at 10:00, and the opening hours of certain stores vary depending on the season. 

Detailed information for 2019 can be found HERE


A 20-year-old can buy all alcoholic beverages.
18–19-year-olds can buy alcoholic beverages with a maximum 22% alcohol content.

The majority of Finns support the alcohol monopoly. Recently, however, particularly expectations on allowing grocery stores to sell wine have increased. This has not happened for some time. As regards spirits, the monopoly system enjoys strong support. In practice, maintaining the monopoly system only as the sales channel for spirits is an unlikely option, Simply because of the cost structure: selling would require government subvention. It has been difficult to clearly communicate the fact that from the viewpoint of the EU Commission, such a change is hardly possible any more if Finland wants to keep its monopoly system.