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The Netherlands gets a new Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act

30 June 2011

STAP enthusiastic about new alcohol policy

This afternoon the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament adopted after about 8 years of preparation and parliamentary debates the new Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act . The Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) is pleased that this historic milestone has been reached. STAP compliments the Chamber and the ministers with this success on which has been worked for such a long time. The new law contains many new possibilities from which particularly municipalities can benefit. The most important target is that the availability of alcohol, particularly for young people will be limited.

The 4 most important measures are:

1)Intensifying alcohol law enforcement
The new law in the first place implies that the enforcement of the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act completely becomes a matter of the municipality.
To the present day this is a task of the nationally operating new Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. It can be expected that the number of annual controls will strongly raise because of this renewed law.

2)Supermarkets get the big stick
The new law provides opportunities for the mayor to impose extra sanctions to those supermarkets which are fined three times within one year for not complying with the age- limits. The mayor can force a supermarket to close its alcohol department for a week at least, to twelve weeks at the most
In essence for all suppliers is now being drawn one clear line. Selling to children is ‘not done’ and suppliers are without exemption the first and main responsible to prevent that youngsters below 16 can buy alcohol. It shows courage and insight that the Chamber (parliament) as well as ministers Schippers and Opstelten have not yielded to the heavy lobby from the supermarket sector to lay the responsibility for this primarily with the young sellers.

3)Go out earlier
With the new law municipalities can relate the admission-age of the bars to the closing-time. The aim is that youngsters go earlier to the pub, in order to prevent pre-loading. So, for example, it can be agreed that youngsters under 18 years can not enter a bar of a discotheque after midnight. Nowadays many youngsters go out after midnight. Often early in the evening they start drinking.

4)Penalization of youngsters for public possession of alcohol
Youngsters under 16 years will be punishable for public possession of alcoholic beverages. This is in force for public places like parks and on the street and also in bars.

STAP is pleased that the Second Chamber (parliament) has chosen for a partial penalization in public. The main responsibility for observing the age-limits completely keeps with the seller, so with the supermarket and the retailer.

And now further!
As the municipalities have got more responsibilities to give shape to alcohol-policy, now again the national government has to act. One of the most important matters which can not be regulated locally is raising the age-limit for purchasing alcohol to 18 years. A measure that is desired by almost all municipalities, GGD Nederland (i.e. all local public health services), STAP, the Trimbos-institute (i.e. national mental health research institute) and many scientists and paediatricians. As now also the PvdA (Labour Party) during the last discussion about the new law has indicated to wish to go for 18 years, there seems to become a political majority for this measure. STAP hopes that the political parties will speed up things so that the Netherlands quickly links up with the majority of the European countries that already have fixed the age-limit on 18 years. Also we hope that other national measures, such as limiting the alcohol advertising, in the near future can count on a bigger support.

After all
Now it’s necessary that the proposed law will be debated in the Senate as short notice. Decentralization of enforcement, the new sanctions for supermarkets: it is necessary that these are being implemented as soon as possible. The placing on the agenda of the former amendment of the law took - by all kinds of circumstances from outside - 18 months. STAP makes from this historical viewpoint and the present problems with alcohol an appeal to all those concerned – also to the commercial parties- to practice reserve and head for a quickest possible debate.

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Dutch Institute for Alcohol policy (STAP)
P.O. Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043
E: info@stap.nl