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Restrictions on bars, restaurants to be eased across Finland

Starting Thursday, dancing will be permitted at outdoor terraces but karaoke singing will still be off limits.

Ravintola Juttutupa. 15.4.2021.
The extent to which restaurant and bar opening hours will be expanded depends on their location. Image: Jorge Gonzalez / Yle

Due to improvements in the epidemic, coronavirus-related restrictions on restaurants and bars will be relaxed to varying degrees across Finland on Thursday, according to authorities.

The country's strictest restrictions will be in effect in areas considered to be in the epidemic's community transmission phase, including the regions of Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Päijät-Häme and South Karelia. In those areas, establishments offering meals will be required to stop selling alcohol at 7pm and shut down at 8pm.

Meanwhile, bars and pubs in those regions will need to close at 7pm and stop alcohol sales an hour earlier.

Areas in the epidemic's accelerating phase will have the country's second strictest rules, including the regions of Kanta-Häme, Central Ostrobothnia, Kymenlaakso, Pirkanmaa as well as the Länsi-Pohja hospital district.

There are no separate opening hour rules for restaurants, cafes and bars in those areas, all food and drink establishments will need to cut off booze sales at 10pm and close for the day at 11pm.

Areas considered to be in the baseline phase of the epidemic include the regions of Åland, Southern Ostrobothnia, Kainuu, Central Finland, Ostrobothnia, Northern Ostrobothnia, Northern Savonia, Southern Savonia, North Karelia, Satakunta and elsewhere in Lapland other than Western Ostrobothnia.

Establishments in those areas will be able to stay open until 1am, with alcohol sales ending at midnight.

No karaoke, but dancing OK on terraces

All food and drink establishments will be able to open as early as 5am, with alcohol sales permitted after 7am.

Establishments will also have the same restrictions on the number of customers they can serve, with eateries restricted to three-quarters of normal full customer capacity and bars and pubs restricted to half of their capacities.

Each restaurant customer will still need to be provided with his or her own seat, and the ban on karaoke singing and dancing indoors remains in place.

Safe distancing measures must still be followed at outdoor terraces, but restrictions on customer seat numbers and the dancing ban do not apply to such outdoor services.

The customer number restrictions do not apply on Åland, however.

Workplace canteens are not affected by the restrictions and restaurant takeaway services are still permitted.

The tourism and restaurant sector union MaRa has sharply criticised the government for what it described as the slow lifting of restrictions.

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