Sweden’s alcohol laws set for changes

Swedes should soon be able to enjoy sake with their sushi, after the government announced plans to modernize the country's alcohol laws. But while Public Health Minister Maria Larsson said she intended to liberalize some areas of Sweden's strict alcohol laws, she vowed to tighten up in other areas.

Sweden's alcohol laws set for changes

The current laws ban the serving of alcohol at any establishment that doesn’t serve food and that does not have full kitchen facilities capable of preparing warm food. This means that many sushi restaurants cannot get alcohol licences. Larsson said the current rules were outdated, but argued that the link between food and alcohol should remain.

“Somebody with a hot dog kiosk with four seats and a microwave will still not be able to get an alcohol licence,” she said.

Larsson is to appoint a committee of inquiry, which will bring forward proposals for reform. The inquiry will also look at how farms could be allowed to sell alcoholic produce, without damaging the state-run alcohol retail monopoly, Systembolaget. Finland, which also has an alcohol retail monopoly, allows farm shops to sell alcoholic drinks.

The review of alcohol laws could see stricter rules on the sale of weak beer. Larsson wants to investigate whether stores should need licences to sell beer with an alcohol content of less than 3.5 percent. Shops selling lower-alcohol beer currently need only to inform the local authority.

The inquiry is also to look into the possibility of stricter penalties for adults who offer alcohol to under-18s.

Larsson also wants the inquiry to investigate whether further demands should be placed on establishments wishing to serve alcohol later than 1am.