Reports of the difficulties faced by microbreweries in obtaining retail permits have stirred up widespread public discussion in Finland.
YLE on Tuesday reported that microbreweries have realised that obtaining the permits, which became available after the recent alcohol law reform, is not quite as straightforward as they expected. The Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Southern Finland, for example, has only granted retail permits to four microbreweries.
An additional 11 applications are currently under consideration at the AVI for Southern Finland.
A spokesperson for Panimoyhtiö Tuju, a brewery based in Lappeenranta, told the public broadcaster that microbreweries are required to have a separate space enclosed by a wall at least 2.2 metres in height for retailing their products. The retail space must also be located in the immediate vicinity of the brewery.
YLE revealed that the complicated nature of the permit process has even taken authorities by surprise.
“This is related to the monopoly of Alko. Certain criteria are imposed on alcohol retail sales in order to protect that,” Markus Leivonen, a senior officer at the AVI for Southern Finland, said in discussing the criteria for retailing craft beers.
His comment has garnered a lot of attention.
“It’s refreshing that an official doesn’t even bother trying to claim that the issue has anything to do with reducing the adverse effects of alcohol. It’s purely about protecting Alko,” tweeted Mikko Kiesiläinen, the managing director at Libera Foundation.
Ville Niinistö, an ex-chairperson of the Green League, reminded that one of the objectives of the legislative reform was to make it less complicated for microbreweries to retail their products.
“Now it seems like the bureaucracy is interpreting the law to protect Alko in a way that is harmful to entrepreneurship and diversifying the beer culture. Only a couple [of microbreweries] have been granted a retail permit. Government, some clarification is needed,” he says.