New Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act rewards active municipalities

6 April 2010

PvdA (Labour Party) frustrates at the final moment new experiment with 18 year

Recently the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament decided to declare the already in July 2009 proposed amendment of the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act as being controversial. Later the Second Chamber retracted on this. At least 7 years have been worked on the law. Tomorrow evening the proposals will be dealt with, within the first term, by the Chamber.
Many municipalities with an active alcohol-policy have the intention to utilize the new amendment-proposals. A part of the new law is an experiment on local level with the introduction of óne age-limit of 18 year for the alcohol-purchasing.
Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: “The new law must stop the gaps in the alcohol-selling and is an upbeat for the introduction of a national age-limit of 18 year for purchasing alcoholic beverages. The change of position by the PvdA (Labour Party) is an unexpected move”.

Intensifying the enforcement of alcohol-purchasing
In the first place the new law means that the supervision of the compliance with the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act will be completely the responsibility of the municipality. Until now that is the task of the nationally operating New Food and Consumer Safety Authority (nVWA). It is expected that the number of annual controls will raise strongly. In total there are about 61.000 selling points of alcohol in The Netherlands, while the Food and Consumer Safety Authority only has just over 100 supervisors at its disposal; it also have as her task to enforce the tobacco-legislation. Scientific research has shown that an alcohol-provider has to be checked at least 4 times a year to achieve a consequent compliance with the rules.
STAP: “If the municipalities take their responsibilities the number of controls possibly can be multiplied by five; besides it is important that the Food and Consumer Safety Authority keeps supporting the municipalities with their knowledge and experience”.

Experiment with an age-limit of 18 year
The proposed amendment of the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act makes it possible that a certain number of municipalities starts with an experiment with óne age-limit of 18 year. At present the age-limit for alcohol-selling is 16 year for mildly alcoholic beverages and 18 year for strong alcoholic beverages.
STAP: Alcohol particularly damages the developing brain. Scientists therefore argue for that reason a heightening of the purchasing age up to 18 year. Also the European Commission argues for one age-limit of 18 year. The new experimental-article is a useful step in the right direction, although a prompt national introduction of óne age-limit of 18 year is much more logical. The PvdA (Labour Party), the CDA (Christian-Democratic Appeal) and the Christen Unie (Christian Union) have asked Mr.Klink (minister of public health) by means of a motion to introduce these experiments. Since the PvdA (Labour Party) suddenly withdraws from this (interview Lea Bouwmeester radio 1; Tuesday, April 6) there is a faire chance that one of the most important prevention-measures (introduction of the 18 year limit) will perish.

Supermarkets get the big stick
The new law offers the possibility for the mayor to impose an extra sanction on supermarkets in case they are fined three times in one year for not complying with the age limits. The mayor can force a supermarket to close its alcohol-department for at least one week to a maximum of twelve weeks.
STAP: “From a number of investigations of at least three years it appears that youngsters of 15 years can buy alcohol at many places too easy. That applies to the catering, supermarkets, liquor shops and sports-canteens”.

Getting out earlier
With the new law municipalities can introduce an admittance-age for bars that is connected to a specific closing time. The aim is that youngsters go earlier to the pub, by which pre-loading can be reduced. So, for instance, it can be arranged that youngsters under 18 year can not enter a bar after midnight. At present many youngsters go out for a drink only after midnight. They often start with drinking at home early in the evening.

Lightening the burden for trade and industry
Besides health interests the law also meets the wishes of the trade and industry. The licence-system is being simplified which means that licensees less often need to apply for a new licence. Also new executives can get to work in the catering quicker and easier.

For more information:
STAP – Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy.
Mr. Ir. W.E. van Dalen, director,
T 030-6565041/ 06-53295544


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