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Parliament approves new Alcohol Act

15 December 2020

The 1st of December 2020, the House of Representatives approved the bill of Secretary of State Paul Blokhuis, that changes the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act, altough the majority of the MPs agreed on some major amendments. 15 Days later the bill, including the amendments, has been approved by the Senate.

The main changes in the alcohol legislation are:

1. Criminalization of onward supplying
* Adults who pass on alcohol to minors in public spaces (onward supplying) will be fined.

2. No more extreme discount prices
* Price promotions in the retail trade, especially in supermarkets and online shops, with more than 25% discount are no longer allowed.

3. Tightening of the rules for online sales
* Websites selling strong alcoholic beverages are only allowed to offer products that liquor stores sell.
* In the future, online orders for alcoholic beverages can only be placed after using an online age check and a delivery method that guarantees compliance with the age limit.

4. More power for municipalities
* Municipalities have the option to set higher floor area requirements for pubs/restaurants (minimum is 35 m²) and liquor stores (minimum is 15 m²).
* Municipalities will be able to allow liquor stores to organize courses and tastings outside opening hours.
* Municipalities can designate 'alcohol nuisance areas' and take appropriate measures.
* Municipalities can require that commercial caterers on boats and other means of transport need a Certificate Responsible Serving.

5. New enforcement regulations
* Public possession of alcohol is not a punishable offence for 16 and 17-year-old test purchasers who work in the context of enforcement.
* The enforcement agency may use a fictitious identity to supervise compliance with the age limit for online sales.
* There will be an independent National Responsible Serving Committee. This mainly determines who is entitled to registration in the Register Responsible Serving.

6. Adjustment of the building requirements
* Lifting of almost all the special requirements of licensed outlets (such as ceiling height and requirements for the toilet area). Exceptions: the national minimum floor area requirement of a pub/restaurant stays 35 m² and for liquor stores 15 m². Also the mandatory hallway between a liquor store and other stores remains unchanged.
* A definition will be introduced in the law that makes it clear that licensed pubs/restaurants and liquor stores are located in buildings or in seperate rooms that have walls or partition constructions on all sides.

7. Relaxation of the rules for the drinks industry
* Public possession of alcohol is not a punishable offence for 14 and 15 year old students in the context of an internship in a hotel or restaurant.
* The access ban to liquor stores for minors will be lifted.
* In the future only the managers of certain categories of companies need to be listed on the licence and need to be screened.

Most provisions of the law are expected to enter into force on July 1, 2021. Then the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act will be renamed to Alcohol Act.

Wim van Dalen, director of the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP, is critical of the new Alcohol Act. "The bill has been written in the context of the National Prevention Agreement, but some changes are in conflict with it. Those changes will have the effect of increasing the availability of alcohol. For example: municipalities will have the option to allow liquor stores to organize courses and tastings outside opening hours. That is a measure that is at odds with the National Prevention Agreement."

Van Dalen thinks it is also a bad signal that the access ban to liquor stores for minors will be lifted and that 14 and 15-year-old students are allowed to serve alcohol in the context of an internship in a hotel or restaurant.

Van Dalen further regrets that Parliament has agreed that in time it will be stipulated in law that not all managers of licensed premises need to be listed on the licence and need to be screened. "This amendment was proposed one week before the vote in the House of Representatives and it is really unwise not screening all managers and add their names to the licence. This change increases the risk of undermining."

Van Dalen certainly also sees positive elements in the new law: "Especially the fact that as a result of two amendments by MP Van Gerven the current minimum floor area requirements for on and off premise outlets is being maintained is good news. The prohibition on price promotions of more than 25% is also positive, although it will be very difficult to monitor.

According to Van Dalen, the new rules for online sales cannot yet be properly assessed. "The underlying idea is fine, but there is still so much to be arranged and whether it will all be possible before the law comes into effect? I doubt it."

News

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