Alcohol laws in Germany
The German laws regulating alcohol use and sale are some of the least restrictive 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 approach to alcohol consumption.
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. Regarding alcohol purchase and alcohol consumption in public places (such as pubs and restaurants), Germany has three drinking ages regulated by § 9 Jugendschutzgesetz (Protection of Young Persons Act):
§ 9 Alcoholic drinks
(1) The following bans shall apply to restaurants, stores and other points of sale:
1. Distilled spirits as well as drinks or food products containing distilled spirits above negligible level must not be sold to Children and Adolescents.
2. Other alcoholic drinks must not be sold to Children and Adolescents below the age of 16 years.
Nor must their consumption by said persons be tolerated.
2) Sub-Clause 1, No. 2 shall not apply to Adolescents accompanied by a Custodial Person.— Protection of Young Persons Act, § 9 Alcoholic drinks
- 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 Custodian. (§ 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.)
Those limits do not apply to married adolescents. (§ 1 JuSchG (5))
The Youth Protection Act uses the term Branntwein — which was originally the German word for brandy — to refer to all distilled alcohol beverages. Branntwein has been superseded by Weinbrand in modern German to specifically refer to brandy.
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), some people demanded that the drinking age be raised. Most politicians, however, spoke against that notion, pointing out instead that such abuse was already forbidden according to current laws, which simply needed to be enforced. In Germany and the rest of Europe, alcohol consumption by adolescents is traditional and generally accepted.
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 alcohol consumption under age. Supermarkets and stores generally check minors for their identity card. 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 3000 trap purchases were carried out in Lower Saxony, in 1327 cases (44%) alcohol was sold without age verification to underage persons. Hundreds of summary proceedings led to administrative fines ranging from 500 to 3000 euros. The standard rate for the illegal sale of one bottle of spirits is 1500 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.
(e.g. Bar owner, salesman, restaurant owner)
|Selling, serving, offering or permitting a child (under the age of 14) to consume or possess drinks or food products containing distilled spirits above negligible level.||Possible fine: 1000-4000€
|Possible fine: 300-1000€
|Selling, serving, offering or permitting an adolescent (over the age of 14, but under the age of 18) to consume or possess drinks or food products containing distilled spirits above negligible level.||Possible fine: 700-3500€
|Possible fine: 100-500€
|Selling, serving, offering or permitting a child (under the age of 14) to consume or possess fermented alcoholic drinks.||Possible fine: 700-3500€
|Possible fine: 100-500€
|Selling, serving, offering or permitting an adolescent (over the age of 14, but under the age of 16) to consume or possess fermented alcoholic drinks.||Possible fine: 500-3000€
|Possible fine: 100-500€
|Selling alcoholic drinks in vending machines
Exceptions: The vending machine is set up in a environment where children and adolescents are not permitted. Or set up in a commercially used room, with an electronic device to ensure that the legal drinking age is not violated, or is always monitored.
|Possible fine: 750-3000€
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.
The permit is not required if alcohol-free beverages, free samples, prepared food is sold or administered or in connection with a accommodation establishment beverages and prepared food is delivered to residents. Every other establishment which does not apply to this scheme requires a Liquor license (Gaststättenkonzession). In most cases a Liquor license is always then required, when alcoholic beverages are served or sold for consumption in the premises. Furthermore on-licence premises have to place a clearly legible notice with the restrictions of the Protection of Young Persons Act (Jugendschutzgesetz) and the bartender must ensure that alcoholic beverages may not be sold or served to recognizable drunk.
Alcohol consumption in public
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.
Until 2009, 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.
- Alcohol belts of Europe
- Alcoholic beverages - Age restrictions - Europe
- Beer in Germany
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- Protection of Young Person Act
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