Alcohol serving licence

Serving alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of over 2.8% is a licenced business activity.

As a trader, you will need a personal licence and a local licence for each place of business where alcohol is served.

We grant alcohol serving licences for an indefinite period or for a fixed period.

Information on licences

We grant licences to adult natural persons or legal persons who meet the requirements laid down in the Alcohol Act. For example, the applicant must not be bankrupt and must be able to meet their financial obligations. Issues such as tax debts may prevent us from granting a licence.

If necessary, we will consult other authorities, such as the police or the tax administration, for their opinion. We may also ask you, as the applicant, to provide additional information.

We grant licences based on the overall consideration required in section 13 of the Alcohol Act.

To make it easier for us to process your application, fill in the form carefully and send it with the necessary supporting documents. Once we have received all the information we need, we should be able to process your application in about one month. 

We may ask you to send additional information or to supplement your application.

If necessary, we will consult other authorities, such as the police and the tax administration, for their opinion on your application.

Sometimes we may also give the neighbours of your place of business an opportunity to comment on the pending application.

You may get an alcohol service licence even if you do not have licensed premises. A catering licence allows you to serve alcohol at various functions or events held in previously approved licensed areas. A catering licence also applies if you are a tour operator and wish to serve alcohol to groups who participate in the tours you organise.

Read more: When the event venue has been approved as a licensed area

Every year, we collect an enforcement fee from each person holding a retail trade licence valid for an indefinite period. The fee is charged for each location.

We invoice the enforcement fees for retail trade licences every calendar year no later than by 30 April for licences that have been in force since 1 April. We do not collect the fees for the first calendar year.

The processing fees are fixed and binding. They are enforceable without a separate decision or judgment. The processing fee is invoiced by the Government Shared Services Centre for Finance and HR.

Price list: processing and enforcement fees

 

If you cancel your application or notification before it has been fully processed, the processing fee is half of the fee that would otherwise have been charged.

 

You may get an alcohol serving licence for premises such as:

  • restaurants
  • cafes
  • concert venues
  • passenger vessels operating a specific route.

As the licensing authority, we must approve both the licensed premises and the licensed area, i.e. the area where alcohol is served. Licensed areas must be such that they can be supervised both by you as the licence holder and by the authorities. You must define and mark the licensed area if its limits are not otherwise obvious. 

You must also draw up a self-regulation plan for your licensed premises. 

Apply for an alcohol serving licence in the Alcohol Trade Register e-service at allu.valvira.fi. Using the e-service requires a business ID. When using the e-service on behalf of a company, you need to have the right to sign for the company or have a mandate to act on behalf of the company, granted by a person with the right to sign for the company. Mandates can be granted in the suomi.fi service (read more at Suomi.fi-tunnistautuminen).

An application submitted in the Allu e-service is automatically referred to the correct Regional State Administrative Agency for processing.

You can also apply for a licence with a form. A link to the form is provided at the bottom of this page. 

Submit the completed form and supporting documents to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency. You can send them as an email attachment or put them in the post. Send your application to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency for the region where your place of business is located.

Self-regulation

Read more about self-regulation and preparing a self-regulation plan here: Self-regulation plan for alcohol sales

 

Changes

As the licence holder, you must inform the Regional State Administrative Agency of any changes in your operations.  

If significant changes occur in your operations, you must notify us of these before the changes enter into force. A significant change could for example be a change to the licensed area.

You must also notify us if you transfer your business to another company or a private trader. In this case, the successor to your business must apply for a new licence to serve alcohol. The new business owner will not be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages until they have been granted a new licence for the premises. 

If you discontinue the serving of alcoholic beverages, notify us within two weeks. You must also report alcohol purchase and sales information to the Regional State Administrative Agency until the end of your operations.

If changes occur in the ownership of the company holding the licence or if control over the management of the company undergoes changes, we will be notified of this automatically by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office.

Report any changes by using the Alcohol Trade Register e-service at valvira.fi/allu.

You can also use a form to report changes. A link to the form is provided at the bottom of this page. 
Submit the completed form and supporting documents to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency. You can send them as an email attachment or put them in the post. Send your application to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency for the region where your place of business is located.

We charge a fee for changes according to our price list.

Price list: processing and enforcement fees

 

Licensing and extended hours

As a general rule, beverages with an alcohol content of more than 2.8% may be served between 09:00 and 01:30. The licensing authority may, for instance, shorten the licensing hours if the serving of alcohol causes disturbance in the neighbourhood or if it is necessary for public safety. Please note that the licensing hours may also be restricted by the housing company or landlord, etc.

After licensing hours have ended, customers have one hour to finish their alcoholic beverages. You do not have to close the licensed premises after your licensing hours have ended. You must, however, collect and remove all alcoholic beverages at that time. When the licensing hours end, the serving of alcohol outdoors must end, and alcoholic beverages must not be consumed outdoors.

The licensing hours of your establishment are not necessarily the same as its opening hours. You can open your establishment before the start of the licensing hours and keep it open for longer than serving alcohol is permitted.

Nights before public holidays

Licensing hours may be extended until 03.00 on the night before:
•    Independence Day
•    New Year’s Day
•    May Day
•    Midsummer’s Day.

You do not need to submit a notification of extended licensing hours on the above-mentioned days, but after 1:30 you are responsible for ensuring that there is one security steward for every 100 customers at your licensed premises. The duty of security stewards is to enforce order and security on the licensed premises and in their immediate vicinity. Public order must be maintained until the consumption of alcoholic beverages ends. 

Licensing hours end at 01:30. You can extend this indoors until 04:00 by notifying the Regional State Administrative Agency of the extension. The extended hours will enter into force three weeks after we have received your notice at the earliest.

To extend your licensing hours in outdoor areas, you must apply for a licence from the Regional State Administrative Agency. Extending licensing hours outdoors is possible up to 4 o’clock. Before granting the licence to extend your hours, as the licensing authority we must, where necessary, give the residents in your neighbourhood the opportunity to comment on the extension application and also consult the police for their opinion.

After 1:30, it is your responsibility to ensure that there is one security steward on the licensed premises for each 100 customers or part thereof. The duty of security stewards is to enforce order and security on the licensed premises and in its immediate vicinity. Public order must be maintained until the consumption of alcoholic beverages ends. 

Local authorities have the right to prohibit extended licensing hours in a specific area or to restrict them if the safety of residents so requires. The local authority’s decision may concern all days of the week or only certain days.  It may be valid until further notice or for a limited period. A local authority’s decision will enter into force at the earliest six months after it has become legally valid.

You may apply for a licence to serve alcohol during the breakfast service at your guest accommodation, starting at 07.00.

Summer time affects licensing hours if you have submitted an extended hours notification. On the night when summer time begins, you must stop serving alcohol in line with your notification, though no later than 04.00 summer time, i.e. 03.00 winter time. After this, consumption of alcoholic beverages is allowed for one hour, i.e. up to 05.00 summer time. However, you do not need to close the licensed premises.

On the night when summer time ends, you may continue serving alcohol no later than 04.00, i.e. 05.00 summer time.

Apply for an extension in the Alcohol Trade Register e-service at valvira.fi/allu.

You can also apply for an extension with a form. A link to the form is provided at the bottom of this page. Submit the completed form and supporting documents to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency. You can send them as an email attachment or put them in the post. Send your application to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency for the region where your place of business is located.

A listed fee list is charged for the notification of extended hours (when alcohol is served indoors) and the application for extended hours (when alcohol is served outdoors). An annual enforcement fee is charged for extended licensing hours in accordance with our price list.

Serving licence for a function or event

If the owner or manager of the event venue (e.g. banquet room) has applied for an alcohol serving licence for the premises or an area within it, you may simply file a notification of serving alcohol at the function or event.

To find a list of approved licensed areas, go to the Alcohol Trade Register at the end of this page.

The notification must be submitted no later than three days (72 hours) before the event to the Regional State Administrative Agency in whose operating area the licensed premises are located. The person serving alcohol must have a valid alcohol serving licence.

The owner or manager of the venue must give the registration number of the licensed area to the serving licence holder and specify any conditions that may limit the serving of alcoholic beverages.

If a venue or area has not been approved as licensed premises, you may apply for an alcohol serving licence for a fixed period for a function or event. 

You may apply for a venue or area to be named approved licensed premises if you are the owner or manager of the event venue (e.g. banquet room). You may set conditions, for example concerning serving hours, in your application. Submit your application to the Regional State Administrative Agency for the region where your venue or area is located.

We charge the licence holder a processing fee in accordance with our price list for the approval of licensed premises. We charge a fee for each alcohol serving notification and event from the organiser serving alcohol. 

We charge a processing fee according to our price list for a fixed-term licence.

Alcohol retail trade licence

You may apply for an alcohol retail trade licence for beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 5.5% to sell indoors on your licensed premises. The alcoholic beverages must be the same that your customers may consume in your restaurant. 

You may only sell alcoholic beverages to take away in pre-filled, sealed packages. You may only bottle alcoholic beverages at an approved production site, and you need a licence for producing alcoholic beverages.

Alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 2.8% may be sold to take away only between 09.00 and 21.00.

Customers who have bought alcoholic beverages to take away are not allowed to drink them on your licensed premises or in its immediate vicinity.

As a rule, alcohol retail trade licences are not granted for events that have an alcohol serving licence. An exception to this are presentation events organised by several producers of alcoholic beverages (e.g. beer festivals), which may be granted an alcohol retail trade licence.

We charge an annual enforcement fee for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages. Other provisions on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages also apply to retail sales in licensed premises.

Read more about retail sales on our website.

As a rule, alcohol retail trade licences are not granted for events that have an alcohol serving licence. An exception to this are presentation events organised by several producers of alcoholic beverages (e.g. beer festivals), which may be granted an alcohol retail trade licence

See the prices: processing and enforcement fees

In addition to the licence fee, we charge an annual enforcement fee for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages. Other provisions on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages also apply to retail sales in licensed premises.

Read more: retail sale of alcohol

Reports and notifications

You must inform us of the value of your sales subject to an alcohol serving licence and of the number of staff. You must submit this notification for each licence.

If your licensed premises also have retail sales of alcohol, you must provide the amount of retail sales in litres and the value in euros.

You need to file a report twice a year:
•    Report the sales for January–June by the end of July.
•    Report the sales for July–December by the end of January.

Staff at licensed premises

As the licence holder, you are responsible for ensuring that each shift is adequately staffed. Employees must not be under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substances.

You need enough members of staff to effectively supervise the serving of alcohol and public order on the licensed premises. The number of employees depends on factors such as:

  • type of your place of business (e.g. pub, night club or restaurant)
  • number of customers allowed on your premises
  • types of licensed areas you have.

Knowledge of the Alcohol Act is demonstrated by means of a certificate of alcohol proficiency, also known as an ‘alcohol passport’. It is awarded to a person who has:

  • successfully completed an examination which assesses the procedures laid down in the Alcohol Act, including the enforcement of the Act
  • completed a course that provides the equivalent knowledge
  • gained a qualification that provides the equivalent knowledge.

The person in charge of licensed premises or the person designated for that task must hold a certificate of alcohol proficiency, also known as an ‘alcohol passport’. An alcohol passport is not required from a person who has a completed a course or a qualification that provides the equivalent knowledge. In addition to the licence holder, the person in charge of serving alcohol is responsible for ensuring that the serving of alcohol on the licensed premises complies with the Alcohol Act and other related provisions. The licence holder must ensure that when the licensed premises are open to customers, the staff on shift includes a person in charge of serving alcohol.

The general rule is that persons under the age of 18 must not sell or serve alcoholic beverages. They are also not allowed to be the person in charge. 

A person aged 16 or over may only sell alcoholic drinks under the supervision of an adult person in charge.

As the licence holder, you along with your staff are responsible for supervising your premises and maintaining order. You must remove from the premises a customer who, for example:

  • is clearly intoxicated
  • behaves disruptively
  • violates a prohibition issued by staff.

If serving is continued beyond 01.30, it is your responsibility to ensure that there is one security steward on the licensed premises for each 100 customers or part thereof. The duty of security stewards is to enforce order and security on the licensed premises and in its immediate vicinity. Public order must be maintained until the consumption of alcoholic beverages ends. 

The Regional State Administrative Agency may determine that you need to have more security stewards that is specified in the aforementioned general rule.

Special cases

An auditorium licence allows you to serve alcohol in the spectator area or part thereof at an indoor ice rink, stadium or concert hall, if an age limit of 18 is imposed on the licensed area. Your local Regional State Administrative Agency must approve the licensed areas. You may allow persons under 18 years to enter the licensed part of the spectator area when you are not serving alcohol there.

You may also get an alcohol serving licence for premises such as guest rooms or saunas reserved for groups even if it is not actually possible to supervise such licensed areas. You may limit the number of servings of alcoholic beverages offered. Record your procedures in your self-regulation plan.

If your catering company does not have an alcohol serving licence, you are not allowed to buy alcoholic drinks for the event at the request of the organiser and then charge a fee for delivering or serving the drinks.

However, if the event organiser purchases alcoholic beverages and brings them to the venue, you may then serve them along with serving other food and beverages. Your catering company may charge the event organiser for the use of your staff, for example at an hourly rate.

However, if your company regularly caters for functions and other events on your own premises, you must get an alcohol serving licence for the premises.

The principal rule is that only one licence holder may serve alcohol in any one licensed area.

However, you may use a shared licensed area if supervision has been agreed on. Those who are planning activities in a shared licensed area must agree among themselves who will be responsible for supervision. All those who will be serving alcohol in the area must send to the Regional State Administrative Agency a notification of, or an application for, changing their licensed area. 

Licensing hours cannot be extended in a shared licensed area. (See Extended licensing hours)

You can apply for an alcohol serving licence for a mobile vehicle when your application presents a clear route where alcohol will be served. If you also serve alcohol on board the vehicle when it is stationary, you have to specify the locations in question. The conductor of a means of transport cannot act as the sole person supervising the serving of alcohol.

Frequently asked questions

You may buy the alcoholic beverages you sell on your licensed premises from:
•    a producer
•    a wholesaler
•    a retailer.

As the licence holder, you may also import alcoholic beverages to Finland for serving on licensed premises. You must notify the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) before you begin importing. Read more about the import notification on Valvira’s website. You must notify Valvira and Customs of all imported items for taxation.

Read more about the import notification on Valvira's website

On your licensed premises, you may only sell alcoholic beverages that have been lawfully purchased for the premises. For example, it is not permitted to consume alcoholic beverages brought in by customers to private events. An example of this would be toasting at a wedding with champagne brought by customers from abroad.

The Regional State Administrative Agencies enforce the serving of alcoholic beverages. Our licensing and enforcement work is coordinated by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). Our aim is to apply the same procedures all across the country. We are developing the enforcement activities with a national enforcement programme. Read more about enforcement on our website. 

National enforcement programme (in Finnish)

Read more about enforcement

Links to legal texts