The city of Munich has a close and troubled relation with alcohol. It is the home of Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival. It is a 16- to 18-day folk festival running from mid- or late September to the first Sunday in October, with more than six million people from around the world attending the event every year. In 2019, alcohol consumption reached 7.3 million liters – leading to a host of problems, including violence against women, driving under the influence, and alcohol intoxication.
- 774 cases of road users being under the influence of alcohol,
- 600 cases of hospitalizations due to alcohol intoxication, and
- alcohol sales to minors below the age of 16.
This type of harmful alcohol norm fuels epidemic levels of alcohol harm in Munich and Bavaria.
Approximately 12.000 people die of alcohol-related causes every year, in Bavaria, with 270.000 people being alcohol dependent. More than 17% of the population consume alcohol in a high-risk manner. More 41.000 criminal acts were committed under the influence of alcohol, in 2017 and 36% of all violence incidences were fueled by alcohol, according to Merkur.
It is clear that Munich and Bavaria have a massive public health and public safety problem due to alcohol. But it took a global pandemic for the city of Munich to finally address alcohol’s harmful role in society.
COVID-19 control requires alcohol policy solutions
Munich has implemented two bans to stop people from gathering in ordet to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
- Ban on alcohol sale from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
- Ban on public consumption of alcohol from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
Mayor Dieter Reiter proposed these measures to the city council on August 25, to be implemented when Munich’s seven day incidence of new infections exceeds 35. The proposal was supported by all except the The Left Party. The mayor’s general decree for implementing the bans are in accordance with the Infection Protection Act with the department for health and environment as the decisive authority.
As Munich recorded a seven day incidence of infections of 35.27 on August 28, the bans have come into effect. Violating the alcohol sales ban will mean a fine of at least €500, while violating the public consumption ban would be fined at €150.
The bans are set to be in effect for one week and then the city council will have to decide on the next steps.
…in times of the pandemic it is first and foremost about protecting the population and avoiding even more onerous measures as far as possible,” said Dieter Reiter, Mayor of Munich, as per Sueddeutsche Zeitung.Dieter Reiter, Mayor of Munich
Lawsuit against the ban on alcohol consumption in public
A lawsuit was filed by one individual with the Munich administrative court against the ban on public consumption. The administrative court declared the ban on consumption to be disproportionate. However, the court decision is only applicable to the individual who filed it. The ban remains in force for all others.
As long as we do not have a final decision by the Bavarian Administrative Court, we assume the legality of our measures, which have also been coordinated with the Ministry of Health, and will also carry them out,” said Mayor Reiter, as per Sueddeutsche Zeitung.Dieter Reiter, Mayor of Munich
Restricting access to alcohol during COVID-19 lockdown is recommended by the World Health Organization to reduce the spread of the virus and to ease the burden on healthcare and emergency services caused by alcohol.