The decree elaborates on the restrictions on customer seating in food and beverage service businesses and on opening hours and when alcohol can be served.

In some places, the added flexibility to the restrictions related to restaurants give the patron an opportunity to visit the sausage stand and return to the bar in the wee hours of the morning. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

The government decided on Thursday to impose temporary restrictions on the activities of food and beverage service businesses as of November 1, 2020. The decree was adopted under the new temporary provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act and will remain in force until December 15, 2020.

The decree elaborates on the restrictions on the amount of customer seating in food and beverage service businesses and on opening hours and hours when alcohol can be served.

While the law remains the same as previously in most parts, the decree now adds flexibility to the restrictions on the opening hours of food and beverage service businesses so that businesses subject to the restrictions may reopen one hour after closing.

This means that, for example, a business that has stopped serving alcoholic beverages at 24:00 and must close at 1:00 may reopen as a night cafe starting at 2:00.

“If the restaurant is closed for an hour, a great number of people will leave. If someone wants to stay at the ‘snägäri’ (sausage stand), then he or she will and will possibly return, said Ismo Tuominen, ministerial government counselor at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

According to Tuominen, it’s, however, more likely that the people will leave rather than stay, so the probability favors the added flexibility.

In the regions of Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa and Ostrobothnia, which are currently in the acceleration or community transmission phase of the epidemic, businesses must stop serving alcoholic beverages by 22:00 at the latest.

All food and beverage service businesses in Ostrobothnia must be closed by 23:00 at the latest. In the other regions listed above, businesses that primarily serve alcoholic beverages must also be closed at 23:00, but other food and beverage service businesses may remain open until 24:00.

Businesses in other parts of Finland must stop serving alcohol by 24:00 at the latest, as is currently the case.

In locations outside the regions of Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa and Ostrobothnia, businesses that primarily serve alcoholic beverages must close by 01:00 at the latest, but other food and beverage service businesses may be open round the clock.

With this decision, there could be a small risk that people would start crossing regional boundaries in the search for a good time based on the opening hours of bars but Tuominen wanted to remind that this is not “the time for playing around.”

“People should not search for their own benefit and pleasure based on restriction-tourism. We want that all regions do not suffer the same way,” Ismo Tuominen said.

In addition, in the regions of Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa and Ostrobothnia, the amount of customer seating in businesses that primarily serve alcoholic beverages is now restricted to half the normal amount. These businesses typically include pubs, bars and nightclubs.

For other food and beverage service businesses in the above-mentioned regions, the amount of customer seating is restricted to three-quarters of the normal amount.

These businesses typically include restaurants, cafes, fast-food restaurants and pizzerias.

In other parts of Finland, the number of customer seats is not restricted. Restrictions on opening hours and the serving of alcoholic beverages according to the pandemical situation.

The current requirements for food and beverage service businesses concerning guidance, hygiene practices and safe distances in customer seating will remain unchanged. Similarly, food and beverage service businesses are still subject to the existing obligations concerning the planning of their activities.

The restrictions on opening hours do not apply to food and beverage service businesses on vessels and aircraft that operate between Finland and other countries or abroad. The restrictions neither apply to food and beverage service businesses that operate at distribution stations for liquid fuels.

Going forward, if there are no Covid-19 infections in a region, the above-mentioned restrictions will be lifted altogether by amending the decree.

The government is continuously monitoring the development of the epidemic to make sure that only those restrictions needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are in place in each region and the food and beverage service businesses subject to restrictions.