Alcohol laws in Germany

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The German laws regulating alcohol use and sale are some of the least restrictive ones in the world. The foremost function of restraints, as far as they exist, is youth protection. In contrast to many other countries (e.g., the United States), the legislation is not designed to keep young people away from alcohol completely, but rather to teach them an appropriate way of alcohol consumption.

Drinking age[edit]

German Jugenschutzgesetz:
The law has to be placed at every public event and establishments selling or serving alcoholic beverages.

Underage drinking in private is not regulated by a specific legal restriction. However, protection from physical and mental harm is part of parents' general obligation to care for a child.[1] Regarding alcohol purchase and alcohol consumption in public places (such as pubs and restaurants), Germany has three drinking ages regulated by § 9 Jugendschutzgesetz[2] (Protection of Young Persons Act):

  • At 14 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, as long as they are in the company by a Custodial Person. (§ 9 JuSchG (2) Sub-Clause 1, No. 2)
  • At 16 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine without their parents or a legal guardian. (§ 9 JuSchG (1) 2.)
  • At 18 - having become adults, people are allowed access to distilled spirits, beverages containing distilled spirits, and food products containing non-negligible amounts of distilled spirits. (§ 9 JuSchG (1) 1.)

Because of moral panic involving alcohol abuse among minors (a 16-year-old boy died after having consumed 45 shots of tequila in a bar in early 2007[3](3), some people demanded that the drinking age be raised. Most politicians, however, spoke against that notion, pointing out instead that such abuse already was forbidden according to current laws, which simply needed to be enforced.[4] In Germany and the rest of Europe, alcohol consumption by adolescents is traditional and generally accepted.

Enforcement[edit]

Police operation in Bensheim (Hesse). Several young people have to dispose illegal obtained alcoholic beverages in the sewers, because they have not exceeded the required age limit.

Violation of restraints will involve prosecution for vendors who sell alcohol to underage persons and also for bystanders who do not intervene in underage drinking. Although restrictions are nationwide and well-known, some salespersons violate the law at times. Minors themselves can never be prosecuted for illegal alcohol consumption. Supermarkets and stores generally check minors for their ID. The law is less thoroughly enforced in many bars and restaurants, but this can vary by location.

In 2008, the federal state of Lower Saxony started a series of trap purchases, conducted by specially trained police cadets, aged 16 or 17, who pose as customers. In 77% of all tests alcohol was sold illegally in shops, filling stations and kiosks. In 2009, about 3,000 trap purchases were carried out in Lower Saxony, in 1,327 cases (44%) alcohol was sold without age verification to underage persons. Hundreds of summary proceedings led to administrative fines ranging from 500 to 3,000 euros. The standard rate for the illegal sale of one bottle of brandy is 1,500 euros. Thus, alcohol trap purchases bring a return of around €2 million annually. Other German states, especially Schleswig-Holstein, are considering implementing the Lower Saxony model, but states like Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Baden-Württemberg object to it.

Offense[5] Trader
(eg. Bar owner, salesman, restaurant owner)
Other person
Selling, serving, offering or permitting a child (under the age of 14) to consume or possess brandy-containing drinks or food products with brandy above negligible level. Possible fine: 1.000-4.000€
Normally: 3.000€
Possible fine: 300-1.000€
Normally: 500€
Selling, serving, offering or permitting a adolescent (over the age of 14, but under the age of 18) to consume or possess brandy-containing drinks or food products with brandy above negligible level. Possible fine: 700-3.500€
Normally: 2.000€
Possible fine: 100-500€
Normally: 300€
Selling, serving, offering or permitting a child (under the age of 14) to consume or possess fermented alcoholic drinks. Possible fine: 700-3.500€
Normally: 2.500€
Possible fine: 100-500€
Normally: 500€
Selling, serving, offering or permitting a adolescent (over the age of 14, but under the age of 16) to consume or possess fermented alcoholic drinks. Possible fine: 500-3.000€
Normally: 2.000€
Possible fine: 100-500€
Normally: 300€
Selling alcoholic drinks in vending machines
Exeptions: The vending machine is set up in a environment where children and adolescent are not permitted. Or set up in a commercially used room, with a electronic device to ensure that the legal drinking age is not violated, or is always monitored.
Possible fine: 750-3.000€
Normally: 1.500€
None

Other legislation[edit]

Closing hours for bars and discotheques are not appointed by the state, but rather by towns and cities, generally or for individual locations. In recent years most towns have begun to abolish closing hours. However, the state of Baden-Württemberg has been the first to forbid the off-premises sale of liquor during night hours (10 pm to 5 am) since year 2010.[6]

Public parties are prohibited nationally on Good Friday, and regionally on other holidays such as All Saints' Day. Buying alcohol remains possible at these times.

Germany does not require any licenses for the production, wholesale, or retail sale of alcoholic beverages.[7][8] However, all restaurants and bars must conform with the regulations in the German Youth Protection Act (Jugendschutzgesetz (de)).

Beyond this, Germany has barely any restrictions on alcohol consumption in public. Exceptions are sometimes made in the context of highly controversial football (soccer) matches, where police executives may ban the sale of alcoholic drinks inside stadiums and deny entrance to drunk fans. In 2009, the private railway company Metronom, which operates in parts of Northern Germany, introduced a much-discussed complete ban on alcohol in its trains.[9]

Until recently, it was acceptable for employees in many fields of work (especially construction workers, gardeners, and the like) to consume medium quantities of alcohol during work hours. However, occupational safety legislation has since tightened down and has induced a significant decrease of alcohol consumption during work hours.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Youth protection in public". Zentrum Bayern Familie und Soziales, Bayerisches Landesjugendamt. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ Protection of Young Person Act
  3. ^ Korinth, Nadja (13 November 2007). "Attitudes to alcohol in Europe/Germany". BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Springer, Axel. "In Baden-Württemberg gilt nachts Alkoholverbot". Die Welt. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Fines for violating the "Jugendschutzgsetz"
  6. ^ "Alcohol sales forbidden at night in Baden-Württemberg". Die Welt. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Country Profile: Germany". eurocare.org. Eurocare (European Alcohol Policy Alliance). n.d. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  8. ^ Österberg; Karlsson, Thomas, eds. (2003). "Alcohol Policies in EU Member States and Norway" (PDF). ec.europa.eu. European Commission. p. 197. Retrieved 2014-08-27.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help), p. 197
  9. ^ "Ban on alcohol: Metronom takes actions". kreiszeitung.de. Retrieved November 9, 2011. 
  10. ^ Corral, Antonio. "Use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace". European Working Conditions Observatory. Retrieved 19 September 2013.