Iceland’s alcohol monopoly soon to be a thing of the past?

A common sight soon in Icelandic supermarkets?

A common sight soon in Icelandic supermarkets? mbl.is/Heiddi

Iceland has taken one step closer to scrapping its State monopoly on the retail sale of alcohol, official sources have confirmed.

The ‘alcohol bill’ – as the draft legislative act seeking to deregulate the retail sale of alcohol in Iceland is commonly known – has now been approved by a majority of members of the Icelandic Parliament (‘Alþingi’) General Affairs Committee.

The bill received the endorsement of a cross-party majority of committee MPs and now moves on to Alþingi for further legislative processing.

A Vínbúðin branch.

A Vínbúðin branch. Photo: Vínbúðin

Two amendments were made to the bill in committee: the first gives individual communities in Iceland leeway to set their own rules on where and how alcohol may be displayed in shops, while the second provides for proceeds from alcohol duties to go equally to the Icelandic Public Health Fund and to the police.

The proposed new licensing system will be stringent and infringements of the rules will be punishable by fines, withdrawal of licences, or even prison, says the driving force behind the bill, Vilhjálmur Árnason MP.

As things stand, the Icelandic State has a monopoly on retail sales of alcohol, which is only available in specific State-run outlets operating under the ‘Vínbúðin’ brand. Recent polls show that a majority of Icelanders do not want this to change (see below).

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Vilhjálmur Árnason MP.

Vilhjálmur Árnason MP. Photo: Ómar

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