Almost Half Of Icelanders Want Alcohol In Supermarkets

alcohol in iceland

About half of Icelanders want to buy wine and beer alongside their other groceries, while fewer would support the sale of strong alcohol outside of government-run stores, Vísir reports.

The perennial debate about breaking the state’s monopoly on alcohol sales rages on, with polling showing steady support for permitting the sale of alcohol in private stores. A survey conducted in February by Maskína for Vísir suggests that 47.6% of Icelanders support the sale of wine and beer in grocery stores, up from 43.4% in 2021.

Meanwhile, just 22.4% of respondents are in favour of strong alcohol being sold in private stores, up from 19.1% last year.

Those aged 30 to 39 are most in favour of selling alcohol in private stores, with 65.8% in this age group supporting the sale of beer and wine outside of Vínbúð locations. Icelanders over 60 are least supportive of breaking the state monopoly, with just 25.8% in favour of wine and beer sales in grocery stores.

Plan on drinking? Plan ahead

The lack of alcoholic beverages in Icelandic grocery stores catches many visitors to the country by surprise. Tourists are often advised to “do as the locals do” and make full use of their duty-free alcohol allowance when entering the country, should they plan in imbibing. The state-run alcohol stores, Vínbúð, are expensive, and opening hours can be sporadic during holidays and in more rural parts of the country. Vínbúð stores are always closed on Sunday.

Central Bank Investigating Íslandsbanki Sale

Central Bank Ásgeir Jónsson seðlabankastjóri

The Central Bank of Iceland confirmed to Stundin that it has opened an investigation into the government’s March 22 sale of a 22.5% stake in Íslandsbanki bank. However, what specific matters about the sale are under investigation is not clear.

“In light of the Central Bank of Iceland’s supervisory role, the Bank cannot comment on issues that are directly related to the state’s sale of a holding in Íslandsbanki,” a Central Bank spokesperson told Stundin. “The reason is that individual factors related to the sale may be examined by the Central Bank’s Financial Supervisory Authority, and an examination of certain aspects related to the sale has already begun.”

As previously reported, Íslandsbanki was entirely state-owned until the government sold a 35% stake in 2021. While last year’s sale was a public offering, the March 2022 sale was only open to professional investors, who received an invitation to buy shares, which were then sold for 5% less than market value after markets had closed for the day.

The blowback to the sale was swift once it came to light that, in addition to pension funds, those who purchased shares in March included Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, the largest shareholder in Glitnir bank before it went bust in Iceland’s 2008 economic collapse; Samherji CEO and former Glitnir chairman Þorseinn Már Baldvinsson; and Benedikt Sveinsson, the father of Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson.

Stundin raised concerns last week about the status of those invited to the recent sale. The offering was meant to be open exclusively to institutional investors, but, Stundin’s source alleged, some investors who walked away with Íslandsbanki shares were general investors with third party securities firms.

Trouble in parliament

Also voicing concerns over how the recent sale was handled is Minister of Tourism, Trade and Culture Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Vísir reports. She said Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson must be held responsible. What isn’t clear is whether Lilja is speaking for herself or if her sentiments about the sale and Bjarni are representative of the Progressive Party, of which she is vice-chairperson.

Lilja sits on the Council of Ministers for Economic Affairs and the Restructuring of the Financial System along with Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and the Finance Minister. The Prime Minister said that Lilja had not noted her opposition to the sale in any official minutes.

Stolen Statue Resurfaces On A Spaceship

The case of the stolen statue has been solved.

As reported last week, a bronze statue of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir was stolen from its pedestal in Laugarbrekka, on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Titled “The First White Mother in America,” the stolen statue depicted Guðríður and her son and was cast from a sculpture that renowned Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson created for the 1940 World’s Fair in New York.

Guðríður and her son reappeared Saturday in a spaceship outside the Living Art Museum in Reykjavík. After some confusion over how the statue came to be in the rudimentary rocket atop a steel launchpad, it came to light it had been placed there by artists Bryndís Björnsdóttir and Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir, who told Vísir that, in placing the statue in this new setting, they were making the point that it is racist and should be launched into space.

The spaceship and the statue have been marked with a plaque identifying it as “Carry-on: The First White Mother in Space.”

Speaking on Vísir’s evening news program, Bryndís said she and Steinunn were questioning what point was being made by referring to Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir as the “The First White Mother in America.”

“We are delighted that this racist work has finally come off its pedestal and is in its proper place in the spacecraft on its way to space. It will be launched and hopefully turn into debris that flies around the earth,” she said.

Artists gone rogue

Director of the Living Art Museum Sunna Ástþórsdóttir said the statue hadn’t been stolen in consultation with the museum and that she was as surprised as everyone else when it appeared Saturday. Snæfellsbær Mayor Kristinn Jónasson said he was just relieved the statue had been found, and he would be arranging for it to be picked up and returned to its pedestal in Laugarbrekka.

Guðríður was born in Laugarbrekka around the year 1000 and was considered the most travelled woman in the world, as well as the first Christian woman to give birth in North America when her son Snorri Þorfinnsson was born during a voyage to Vinland.