Court raises glass to late night outdoor drinking

A ruling in Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court has paved the way for bars and restaurants to allow customers to sit outside with their drinks until half an hour after closing time, even if last orders outdoors are taken at 11pm.

A Stockholm pub owner took the matter through the courts after receiving an official warning in 2006 when customers remained seated outside the premises more than half an hour after 11pm, the pub’s licensed cut-off time for serving alcohol outside.

With the new ruling set to apply nationwide, officials in Malmö concede that their own rules, almost identical to those in the capital, may soon be rendered obsolete.

“Our view has been that there shouldn’t be anybody left in outdoor serving areas after 11.30pm. But the ruling in the Supreme Administrative Court shows that there is no support for this interpretation,” said Per-Eric Gällblad, head of Malmö’s licensing division, to the Sydsvenskan daily.

Theoretically, the ruling means that customers in pubs and restaurants can now order two bottles of wine just before the clock strikes eleven, and then stay drinking out in the fresh air until closing time.

“The supreme court ruling applies and we’ll study it more closely. This will only become a problem if and when restaurateurs start availing themselves of the possibilities afforded by the ruling,” said Gällblad.

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