During my tour guiding days, tourists were always amazed by what kind of alcohol they could buy, not to mention the fact that you could walk the streets while drinking, and smoking was still allowed in restaurants. Just for fun, I would then tell them about the lax drug laws the country had. They were impressed by the liberal attitudes towards substance use. Well, starting May 31st 2017, a law might be passed (sometimes called the anti-smoking law) that will add some regulations, causing the country to look a little more like the rest of Western Europe.
The most notable change is that smoking will be completely forbidden in restaurants. The potential new law was brought forth by the Ministry of Health. It’s been receiving some criticism from business owners though, mainly for the new regulation that says that the business has the responsibility to stop pouring alcohol to a customer if they know that that individual is going to later go out do either harm to another person, or some kind of act of vandalism.
A fine of 10000 CZK will go to the personnel who serves that individual alcohol. On top of that, the entire business will get fined 50000 CZK. Although the Ministry of Health says that a similar law was passed around 1990, business owners criticize that the law is too vague, asking how are they supposed to know if an individual is later going to do harm?
An example of such a situation is if the person they are serving alcohol admits that he/she is planning on driving afterwards. There is zero tolerance for drunk driving in the Czech Republic, and if a person is found to have any signs of alcohol or drugs in their blood, they can serve up to 3 years in jail, or a fine of CZK 25-50000. If the personnel serving the alcohol discovers that the customer is going to drive afterwards, they are to not serve that individual, or they will be fined.
Business owners are worried though, that if a person were to be arrested for drunk driving, that if it were discovered that the last place they had drank beer at was business owner’s establishment, that the business would be punished, even if they had no idea that the person would be driving. They argue that the business isn’t meant to be responsible for finding out those kind of details.
The proposed law also forbids the selling of alcohol to persons who are “apparently drunk.” The Ministry says that already such a law has existed for 11 years. However, it’s not clear how “apparently drunk” is supposed to be defined, but the Ministry says that since that law already is in place, the business can determine on their own which of their customers have been drinking too much.
A new addition to the law is that they will be cracking down more on serving alcohol to minors. It’s not uncommon for a minor to drink a little beer if they are out with their families at a restaurant, but the law forbids them to get drunk. This part of the law has not received much opposition, except from probably a few teenagers.
Also, at sporting events, customers will only be able to buy beer and wine if this law gets passed. So far, the law hasn’t been overviewed by the senate. There may be some changes afterwards, so nothing is set in stone yet. The law mainly just affects the selling of alcohol, and prohibits where one can smoke. The country still is very liberal on their substance use, and continues to have ideal drug laws (in my humble opinion).
*** note: It’s perfectly fine to drink with an open container in Prague, but you have to be careful where. For instance, it’s not allowed on Old Town Square or the Jewish Quarter. That being said, the laws are still pretty lax. During Christmas time, for example, you can by hot wine and cider on the square and it’s perfectly fine to drink it. ***