As my regular readers will know, there is a government monopoly on retail sales of all alcoholic beverages above 4.8 % ABV here in Norway. There are similar shops in Sweden, Iceland and Finland.
Additionally, there have been local monopolies for beer in a number of municipalities. As late as the early nineties, there were sixty communities with beer monopolies, either run by the local authorities or by private companies.
There has been a general trend of more liberal access to alcohol over the last decades. There used to be a number of dry municipalities with a total ban on alcohol in both shops and restaurants. There are now only two municipalities without licenced restaurants – Siljan in Telemark and Meland in Hordaland. But that is not because of local legislation. There are no unlicenced restaurants there, either. Oh well. Lots of fresh air and healthy living, I suppose.
And the access to stronger stuff is easier as well. The Vinmonopolet stores are now popping up even in smaller towns, and they to free postad delivery if you live more than a certain distance from a shop.
This liberalisation has led to an erosion of the support for the local beer monopolies as well. In Fauske, close to Bodø in Northern Norway, there was even a referendum last year, giving a slim majority for the monopoly. But this evening the district council will vote to abolish it, allowing local supermarkets to sell beer.
For the locals, this will make it more convenient to buy a few cans of beer along with the rest of their groceries. But, knowing the Norwegian supermarket chains, it does not mean any better selection of craft beer. That’s another fight for another day.