Different Laws, Different States
While there is a certain degree of harmonisation across Europe, laws and regulations covering beer vary greatly throughout the EU and are constantly evolving. Just take a look at these examples.
In 2008, the Mayor of London banned drinking on public transport, but before the law came into effect there a party was held called the “Last Round on the Underground”. Some revellers made a statement by viewing the party as a protest; others simply wanted to show that not all public drinking is anti-social.
In 1955, it became legal for light beers (under 3.5% ABV) to be bought in supermarkets. Anything stronger needs to be purchased in a Systembolaget (a state-run alcohol shop). The legal age for purchasing drinks over 3.5% ABV & to be consumed off premises is 20 yrs old.
In Latvia, it’s illegal to sell alcohol between 10pm & 6am, but a group of keen businessmen in the city of Bauska have found a mischievous way of getting around the law. The company started operating from a vehicle thereby flaunting the laws that apply to brick and mortar businesses! While the vehicle is unrestricted as to how long it can park on the street, they also operate a delivery business for a fee. Local authorities have found themselves stumped, but say they are watching the business & staff of the company carefully!
After the EU imposed sanctions on Russia, the country retaliated with its own embargo on imported apples, inflicting a devastating blow to Polish farmers, who were large suppliers of apples to Russia. In a bid to shift its new apple surplus, and counter the Russian embargo, Poland partially lifted its ban on advertisement for all alcohol (apart from beer) to allow cider – a beverage most often made from fermented apple juice – the same promotional privileges as beer.
While the majority of countries set 18 as the legal drinking age, laws do vary across the EU. In Germany, 14 year olds are allowed to consume and possess undistilled alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine if they are in the company of a custodial person.
Since 2014 it is permitted for cyclists to be under the influence of alcohol as long as they are capable of steering their bikes – not a very accurate or successful method of judging the ability and inebriation of a cyclist!
Attempts to regulate public drinking in Spain have failed to take hold at the national level, but regional governments have taken charge. In Madrid patrons cannot step away from a café terrace while holding their beer for fear of getting fined! Meanwhile, the ‘botellódromos’ – created by regional governments specifically so party-goers could drink in public without disturbing the peace – have been banned under a new national law. Now that the federal law is in conflict with local ordinances, the ‘whens’, ‘wheres’, & ‘hows’ of consuming alcohol in public spaces are about as clear as a cloudy white beer.