The government has announced a further easing of restrictions on bars and restaurants as Finland's coronavirus situation continues to calm.
The latest guidelines will mean the lifting of a ban on karaoke singing, a popular Finnish pastime, in bars and restaurants located in regions considered to be in either the baseline or accelerating phase of the pandemic.
However, the new measures only allow for one additional hour of drinking time in areas considered to be in the community transmission phase of the pandemic, and the closing time in the accelerating phase regions remains the same.
This means that restaurants in Kanta-Häme, Päijät-Häme and Uusimaa must now stop serving alcohol at 8pm and close their doors at 9pm, while bars in the regions will close at 7pm and stop serving at 6pm, or an hour later than under the previous regulations.
Restrictions on opening and serving hours in the Central Ostrobothnia, Kymenlaakso, Pirkanmaa and Southwest Finland regions remain the same: 11pm closing after service stops one hour earlier.
Bars and restaurants in the rest of the country, or the regions considered to be in the baseline phase, will be allowed to stay open until 2am and stop serving alcohol at 1am.
The changes will come into force from Wednesday, 9 June.
Organising events becomes easier in baseline regions
One major change for the baseline regions is the ending of limits on the number of people allowed to sit in outdoor areas, such as terraces, which will improve the chances of organising public events as bars and restaurants can accommodate larger gatherings.
The government's ministerial group tasked with regularly reviewing the restrictions also noted that a broader overall review of the restrictions will follow in the week beginning 21 June.
If the pandemic situation eases further, it may lead to the lifting of more restrictions, the group said.
Lobby group lodges formal complaint
Despite Tuesday's announcement of the lifting of restrictions, the restaurant industry lobby group MaRa lodged an official complaint with the Chancellor of Justice about the government's treatment of bars and restaurants.
"The restrictions on the serving and opening hours of restaurants in the provinces of the community transmission phase, Kanta- and Päijät-Häme and Uusimaa, are still in breach of the Communicable Diseases Act," the Finnish Hospitality Association's (MaRa's) CEO Timo Lappi said.
The lobby group argued that under the law, and based on the current pandemic situation, the government cannot require restaurants to stop serving before 10pm and close before 11pm.
"According to the law, the government can decide this only under very extreme conditions. The provision does not leave the government with political room for manoeuvre," Lappi added.