Alcohol laws in Germany

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Beer in Germany is an important part of German culture

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, the legislation is not designed to keep young people away from alcohol completely, but rather to teach them an appropriate approach to alcohol consumption.

Drinking age[edit]

German Jugendschutzgesetz:
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):

§ 9 Alcoholic drinks
(1) The following bans shall apply to restaurants, stores and other points of sale:

  1. Beer, wine, wine-like beverages or sparkling wine or mixtures of beer, wine, wine-like beverages or sparkling wine and soft drinks,
  2. Other alcoholic drinks or food items that contain other alcoholic drinks in more than insignificant quantities 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. 1 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))

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] 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.[4] In Germany and the rest of Europe, alcohol consumption by adolescents is traditional and generally accepted.[citation needed]

Enforcement[edit]

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

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.

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.

Fines for violation[edit]

The "Bußgeldkatalog" of each state sets the possible fines for each violation of the act and varies slightly by state. In Baden-Württemberg the Bußgeldkatalog for violation against the "Protection of Young Persons Act" provides following fines:[5]

Misdemeanor Law Possible fine (retailer & business operator) Standard fine (retailer & business operator) Possible fine (other) Standard fine (other)
Selling or serving spirits or food products, containing more than insignificant quantities of spirits, to a child under 14 years of age § 9 Sec. 1 JuSchG €1,000 - €4,000 €3,000 €300 - €1,000 €500
Selling or serving spirits or food products, containing more than insignificant quantities of spirits, to a young person over the age of 14 but under the age of 18 years § 9 Sec. 1 JuSchG €700 - €3,500 €2,000 €100 - €500 €300
Selling or serving beer, wine, wine-like beverages or sparkling wine or mixtures of beer, wine, wine-like beverages or sparkling wine and soft drinks, to a child under 14 years of age § 9 Sec. 1 JuSchG €700 - €3,500 €2,500 €100 - €500 €300
Selling or serving beer, wine, wine-like beverages or sparkling wine or mixtures of beer, wine, wine-like beverages or sparkling wine and soft drinks, to a unaccompanied young person over 14 years but under 16 years of age § 9 Sec. 1 JuSchG €500 - €3,000 €2,000 €100 - €500 €300

Other legislation[edit]

Alcohol consumption in public[edit]

Alcohol ban in Nikolaistraße

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. The government maintains the right to restrict or ban the sale of alcohol for a certain time to maintain public order (§ 19 GastG)[6].

Beyond this, Germany has very few restrictions on alcohol consumption in public. Exceptions are sometimes made in the context of football (soccer) matches involving rival teams, 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.[7] Some cities have banned alcohol consumption in certain areas and at certain times, such as Göttingen in Nikolaistraße between midnight and 8:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays, or in Hannover Hauptbahnhof.

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.[8]

Drinking and driving[edit]

Germany has strict laws regarding operation of motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances. There are a series of different rules and penalties tied to various blood alcohol levels.

  • 0.00% for those under the age of 21 or with less than two years' experience, professional drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and drivers transporting passengers commercially;
  • 0.03% in conjunction with an accident or traffic offense;
  • 0.05% otherwise.
  • 0.16% for cyclists, where not in conjunction with any other traffic offense or accident. From 0.16%, cyclists face the same penalties as driving a car at that limit.[9]

Penalties start at a €500 fine and one-month license suspension. Above 0.11%, the penalty is a €500 fine and the withdrawal of the driver's licence for at least six months, but usually about one year (penalty is set by the court); from 0.16%, reissue of the licence requires a successful Medical Psychological Assessment (MPU), often referred to as the "Idiot test". Violators above 0.11% within ten years of a prior offence above 0.05%, there is a minimum €1000 fine and a one-year licence withdrawal; the driver has to successfully pass an MPU and is required to prove to the court that they have been sober for the last twelve months, before they can get their licence back. For repeat offenses, the fine is multiplied by the ordinal of the offence (doubled, tripled, etc.), regardless of the amount by which the driver was over the limit. These minimum penalties are usually exceeded by the German courts. From 0.11%, the courts usually also require the DUI offender to do unpaid community service.

In addition to fines, impaired drivers are generally given points on their Verkehrssünderkartei (literally: "traffic sinner card") which are managed by the Federal Motor Transport Authority in Flensburg.

It is however legal to consume alcohol while driving, provided the driver remains under the legal blood alcohol limits.[10]

Licensing laws[edit]

On-license[edit]

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.[11] 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.

Rules and Regulations[edit]

On-licence premises have to place a clearly legible notice with the restrictions of the Protection of Young Persons Act (Jugendschutzgesetz)[12] and the bartender must ensure that alcoholic beverages may not be sold or served to underage or visibly intoxicated persons.[13] Operator of a licensed premises are not allowed to force their customers to buy a meal with a drink or change prices if a customer does not order a meal. Changing prices if a customer does not buy a alcoholic drink is also against the law, and every licensee must ensure that there ist at least one non alcoholic drink that is cheaper than the cheapest alcoholic drink.[13]

Closing hours[edit]

Closing hours for bars and discotheques are appointed mostly by state legislation. Within the past 10 years many states have abolished the closing hours for licensed establishments. Most states remain with the so called "Putzstunde" (Cleaning hour), which refers to the 1-2 hours (usually between 5 AM and 6 AM) during which licensed premises are not allowed to serve their customers.

Federal state City/Municipality Closing hours Notes
 Federal Republic of Germany (federal law) States have the right to set closing hours for licensed establishents (§ 18 GastG). Under federal law, it is illegal to serve customers outside of the establishent after 10 PM, or 11 PM with permission of the city (Emissionsschutzgesetz).
 Baden-Württemberg Monday-Thursday: 3 AM - 6 AM
Friday & Weekend: 5 AM - 6 AM
Spa Town: 2 AM - 6 AM
Gambling establishments: 12 AM - 6 AM[14]
Cities can permit businesses to apply for an exception to the closing hours.
 Bavaria 5 AM - 6 AM[15] The closing hours do not apply during the night of 1. January. Cities can permit businesses to apply for an exception to the closing hours.
 Berlin None[16] There is no general closing hour for licensed businesses. However, it is against the law if licensed businesses serve their costumers outside after 10 PM without permission of the city, if someone files a complaint.[16]
 Brandenburg None[17] In 2006 the government of the state of Brandenburg declared that the closing hours for licensed busineses was abolsihed.[17]
 Bremen Generally: 2 AM - 6 AM
Friday, Weekend & Bank holidays: None
Gambling establishment: 2 AM - 6 AM[18]
Cities may permit exceptions.[18]
 Hamburg None[19] The closing hours where abolished in 2006.[19]
 Hesse Generally: 5 AM - 6 AM
Amusement parks & Fairs: 12 PM - 6 AM
During carnival, 1. May & 1. January: None[20]
Cities can permit exceptions to the general closing hours.[20]
 Lower Saxony None
 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern None
 North Rhine-Westphalia Generally: 5 AM - 6 AM
[21]
Cities can permit exceptions to the general closing hours.[21]
 Rhineland-Palatinate Generally: 5 AM - 6 AM
Saturday, Sunday, Bank holiday or Carnival: None
Amusement parks & Fairs: 10 PM - 6 AM
Gambling establishments: 12 PM - 6 AM[22]
Cities can permit exceptions to the general closing hours.[22]
 Saarland Generally: 5 AM - 6 AM
1. January: None
Amusement parks & Fairs: 10 PM - 7 AM
Gambling establishments: 11 PM - 7 AM[23]
Cities can permit exceptions to the general closing hours.[23]
 Saxony Generally: 5 AM - 6 AM
1. January, 1. & 2. May: None
Amusement parks, Gambling establishments & Fairs: 10 PM - 6 AM[24]
Cities can permit exceptions to the general closing hours.[24]
 Saxony-Anhalt None[25] The closing hours for licensed establishments was abolished in 2015.[25]
 Schleswig-Holstein None[26] The closing hours for licensed establishments was abolished in 2005.[26]
 Thuringia None[27]

Off-licence[edit]

Germany does not require any licenses for the production, wholesale, or retail sale of alcoholic beverages.[28][29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Youth protection in public". Zentrum Bayern Familie und Soziales, Bayerisches Landesjugendamt. Retrieved 17 December 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. ^ "Bußgeldkatalog für Verstöße nach dem Jugendschutzgesetz (JuSchG)" (PDF). Ministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  6. ^ "Gaststättengesetz - § 19 Verbot des Ausschanks alkoholischer Getränke". juris GmbH. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  7. ^ "Ban on alcohol: Metronom takes actions". kreiszeitung.de. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Corral, Antonio. "Use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace". European Working Conditions Observatory. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Alkohol im Straßenverkehr Promille-Grenze für Radfahrer bleibt bei 1,6". Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. 8 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Hebermehl, Gregor (25 September 2017). "28 Irrtümer im deutschen Straßenverkehr: Bier am Steuer, Handy am Ohr - Was ist erlaubt?". Auto motor und sport. Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  11. ^ "§2 GastG". gesetze-im-internet.de. Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz (Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection). n.d. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "§3 GastG". gesetze-im-internet.de. Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz (Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection). n.d. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "§20 GastG". gesetze-im-internet.de. Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz (Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection). n.d. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "Sperrzeit - Verkürzung oder Aufhebung beantragen". Ministerium für Inneres, Digitalisierung und Migration Baden-Württemberg. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  15. ^ "Sperrzeit; Beantragung einer Verlängerung, Verkürzung oder Aufhebung". Bayerisches Staatsministerium des Innern und für Integration. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  16. ^ a b "Keine Sperrstunde für die Simon-Dach-Straße". Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  17. ^ a b "Keine Landesregierung hebt Sperrzeitverordnung auf - Brandenburg kann noch gastfreundlicher werden". Landesregierung Brandenburg. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  18. ^ a b "Verordnung zur Ausführung des Bremischen Gaststättengesetzes (Bremische Gaststättenverordnung - BremGastV)". Die Senatorin für Finanzen der Freien Hansestadt Bremen. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  19. ^ a b "Die Sperrzeiten sind gekippt". Hamburger Abendblatt. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  20. ^ a b "Recht im Gaststättengewerbe". IHK Wiesbaden. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  21. ^ a b "In NRW soll es neue Sperrstunden für eine "gefährliche" Kneipenstraße geben". bento.de. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  22. ^ a b "Welche Sperrzeiten gelten für Rheinland-Pfalz?". IHK Rheinhessen. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  23. ^ a b "Saarländisches Gaststättengesetz (SGastG) Gesetz Nr. 1745 - § 11". saarheim.de. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  24. ^ a b "10. Welche Sperrzeiten gelten für Gaststättenbetriebe und Spielhallen" (PDF). chemnitz.ihk24.de. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  25. ^ a b "Sachsen-Anhalt Land besteht nicht mehr auf Sperrstunde". mz-web.de. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  26. ^ a b "Schleswig-Holstein kippt Sperrstunde". Ina Rometsch, Hamburger Abendblatt. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  27. ^ "Übersicht der Sperrzeiten nach Bundesländern". g-wie-gastro.de. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  28. ^ "Country Profile: Germany". eurocare.org. Eurocare (European Alcohol Policy Alliance). Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  29. ^ Österberg, Esa; Karlsson, Thomas, eds. (2003). "Alcohol Policies in EU Member States and Norway" (PDF). ec.europa.eu. European Commission. p. 197. Retrieved 27 August 2014.