Sales of wine and liquor are so politically charged in Norway that the issue of extended opening hours for the state liquor monopoly Vinmonopolet was a matter of debate in Parliament this week. It resulted in the state-controlled retailer being allowed to open on several days when it’s traditionally been closed.
It will still be closed on Christmas Eve, December 24, and all other state holidays, but it’s now set to open on the days before holidays, and on Election Day in September.
Vinmonopolet outlets can now open New Year’s Eve, on the day before Easter Sunday and on the Saturday before the pinse (Whitsund) holiday in the late spring.
The change means that Vinmonopolet employees now stand to lose the long holiday weekends they’ve enjoyed for decades, not least at Easter, when they all had five days off in a row (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, “Easter Eve” on Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday). Now at least some of them will need to work on the Saturday, but likely at premium hourly wages.
Opponents were disappointed that the majority voted in favour of allowing Vinmonopolet to open four more days a year. Some cited health concerns while others simply want to retain strict rules governing sales of alcoholic beverages in Norway. One anti-alcohol group, Actis, was at least comforted that the stores will still be locked on December 24, calling that “a victory for children who live in families that struggle with alcohol abuse.”