Record number of bars hold spirits licences

Around 10,500 restaurants in Sweden have a licence to serve alcohol. That's five times more than at the beginning of the 1970s, according to new figures from the Swedish National Institute of Public Health.

“A clear step in the wrong direction from the point of view of public health,” said Sven Andréasson, an alcohol doctor at the Institute.

Since 2000, the number of serving licences has increased by nine percent, Dagens Nyheter reported.

“The same amount of alcohol is consumed in restaurants as private drinking, leading to more problems,” said Sven Andréasson.

“Utterly incomprehensible,” said Mats Hulth, the managing director of the Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Association, in response. He pointed out that Sweden had fewer licensed bars than anywhere in Europe.

“The only controlled environment is in restaurants,” he said.

But Sven Andréasson described the development as a battle between the bar business on the one side, with employment, tourism and community value in its arsenal, and on the other side public health.

“In the last ten years the battle has to an increasing degree been won by the commercial argument.”

But there are also social problems associated with the increase in licensed bars, argued Andréasson. He pointed to the bar-packed streets around Stockholm’s Medborgarplatsen:

“There you get a real concentration of the problem. I mean primarily violent crime.”

Increasing numbers of bars and restaurants also have permission to serve strong spirits. In the last six years, 16 percent more have begun serving strong spirits, while the number with just beer and wine licences has declined.

It is easier to get a drink late at night in Sweden too: more bars than ever have licences to serve alcohol until 3am or 5am.

“The Institute of Public Health doesn’t need to worry,” said Mats Hulth.

“The most important thing is to work with the thing we’ve agreed on: educating staff in how to handle alcohol responsibly.”