It is now more likely than ever that the sale of alcohol in private stores will become a reality in Iceland. However, the matter will by all accounts still be hotly contested.
As many readers are aware, it is not only illegal to advertise alcohol in Iceland; alcohol itself may only be sold at designated State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland (ÁTVR) stores. The “beer” you might see on offer in grocery stores is, in fact, merely near-beer with an alcohol content of 2.5% or lower.
Vísir reports that this may soon change.
Four parties – the ruling coalition of the Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future, in addition to the Pirate Party – introduced a bill to parliament yesterday that would permit the sale of alcohol in private shops, starting in the beginning of 2018. 5% of the alcohol tax will go directly to the Health Fund, for the express purpose of funding prevention of alcohol abuse. In addition, the advertising of alcoholic beverages will also be legalised.
While this level of parliamentary support on the surface would appear to make the matter a foregone conclusion, not everyone in these parties is 100% on board. Vísir reports that Independence Party MP Ásmundur Friðriksson told reporters that he would vote against it, and both Pirate Party MP Einar Brynjólfsson and Progressive Party MP Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir said they were uncertain if they would vote in favour.
However, even if these three voted against the bill, it would still have enough votes in favour to pass. Nonetheless, it is expected that other opposition parties – especially the Left-Greens – will fight against it. Grapevine will keep readers updated on any developments as they arise.