Icelandic Breweries Can Now Sell Directly to Customers

Kaldi beer brewery

Starting tomorrow, July 1, breweries in Iceland will be permitted to sell their alcoholic products directly to customers. The change is thanks to a parliamentary bill passed on June 15 that somewhat relaxes the state monopoly on alcohol sales. While some say it’s high time alcohol was available for sale outside of state-run stores, others are wary increased availability will lead to higher rates of alcoholism.

The changes are long overdue, according to Ólafur Stephensen, CEO of the Icelandic Federation of Trade. He told RÚV that he hopes to see legislation concerning alcohol sales relaxed even further.

See Also: Business Booming for Online Alcohol Retailers

“The goal of the bill was, among other things, to strengthen culture-related tourism around breweries in the countryside. The result is that one or two breweries are excluded, both in Eyjafjörður [North Iceland]. And one producer of spirits in Borgarnes. There is no logic to that,” Ólafur stated, adding that there is no reason producers of spirits shouldn’t also be allowed to sell their products on site.

“These are companies that have the same criteria and have been building up tourism around their operations and production. These breweries produce too much and are therefore too big to fall under these legal amendments.”

The lack of alcoholic beverages in Icelandic grocery stores catches many foreign tourists by surprise. The state-run liquor store, Vínbúðin, is expensive, and opening hours can be sporadic during holidays and in more rural parts of the country. Vínbúðin stores are always closed on Sundays. While some have argued that increased access to alcohol will lead to increased alcohol abuse, a recent survey shows that almost half of Icelanders want beer and wine to be available in supermarkets.

Skál! New Bill Would Allow Breweries to Sell Beer On-Site

A new bill would make it legal for small-scale breweries to sell alcohol on site. Vísir reports that the bill, presented by Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson, would allow breweries to sell bottled or can beer to visitors without having to resort to complicated and expensive workarounds, like applying for a liquor license and opening an on-site bar.

A similar bill was presented by former Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, but was met with protest from the state liquor authority (ÁTVR), which argued that the proposed changes would undermine state-run liquor stores.

See Also: Local Distributor Flouts Prohibitions on Home Beer Delivery

ÁTVR recently faced a setback in a similar attempt to quash alcohol retail on the open market. Just last week, the Reykjavík District Court ruled against the authority in its case against Sante ehf., Santewine SAS, and Bjórland, retail outlets that have begun selling alcohol outside of the state monopoly. In its case, ÁTVR demanded that these companies cease operations because ÁTVR holds the exclusive right to sell alcohol in Iceland.

ÁTVR has decided to appeal the recent ruling, but Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, whose ministry oversees ÁTVR, would like to see the current bill go even further, saying he’d like to see traditional online alcohol retail permitted in Iceland.