Alcohol-free Sept. 1 sobers Lithuanians

  • 2007-08-29
  • By Kimberly Kweder

VILNIUS - Lithuanians face a one-day, nationwide ban on alcohol sales on Sept. 1 as a new law aimed at curbing drinking among teenagers comes into effect.
From midnight Friday night (Aug. 31)  to midnight Saturday night (Sept. 1), alcohol sales in bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and all similar establishments will be prohibited.
The amendment to the Law on Alcohol Control, adopted by the Seimas (Lithuania's Parliament) last November and finalized this spring, is meant to stop teenagers from indulging on what is traditionally celebrated as the first day of the school year.

"[The amendment's] initiators say that the First of September should be day without alcohol, and it is one of the measures in our society's fight with drinking among pupils," said Jolanta Anskaitiene, a spokeswoman for the Seimas.
However the ban has brewed concerns among restauranteurs and pub owners. They worry that turning off the taps on what would normally be a busy weekend will only harm their profits and will not have the intended impact on teenage drinking.
"People will just have more fun drinking when it [sales] is forbidden," said Cafe de Paris owner Augustenas Beinaravicius. "The government should put more money into educating, not taking one day [prohibiting] alcohol sales and hoping it will change something."
Beinaravicius' business is likely to take a substantial hit from the ban. A Friday night at Cafe de Paris typically draws in close to 200 people from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Beinaravicius also complained that he didn't receive any official government statement regarding the regulation, and only learned about the law from his alcohol supplier and from reading the local papers.
"The law is kind of ridiculous; I'm lost in it," he said.
The Lithuanian Association of Restaurants and Hotels said it was informed about the amendment last month.
The association is preparing a special campaign to apologize to their guests for the parliament's decision, said the organization's director Egle Oilkiene.
"We are against the law, but we are also against the consumption of alcohol among young people. It's very simple to see that everyone will buy their drinks the day before the ban."
Oilkiene said that members of her association think that sales may be double the day before the ban and they plan to research the matter.

Many bar owners said they were confused about the legal requirements.
Grazina Belian, Assistant Director of the State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Service, said she understands it is a "complicated situation" for everyone.
"This is the first time for all of us, but I think our sellers know the control laws," she said.
There are over 15,000 establishments in Lithuania licensed to sell alcohol. Any business that breaks the Sept. 1 prohobition could face a penalty of 500 to 2,000 litas for a first-time offense.
Despite the strictness of the measure, many high school students doubt that the ban will be effective.
"People sell alcohol in the little shops and it's impossible to check all of them," Zygimantas, 15, said.
Several bars and nightclubs are coping with the ban by making alterations to their opening and closing hours.
At Intro, the club's manager Vygandas Simbelis said he's resolving the issue by locking his doors at midnight.
"We didn't plan any big concerts for the weekend. There are other ways to go about limitations. This is the wrong way," Simbelis said.

Sill others are sticking to their plans to hold typical Friday night party events. Club Gravity is scheduled to host DJ Frank Wiedemann/AME on Aug. 31.