Home distilling was banned. Factories were allowed to make alcohol, and distilleries sprang up here and there. Beverages could be sold in ordinary shops, but various regulations were gradually introduced. At the beginning of the new century, there were 1,066 alcohol shops in Finnish towns.
The Senate prohibited the distribution of alcoholic beverages on account of the Great War. The serving of alcoholic beverages was allowed only in first-class restaurants.
The Prohibition Act enters into force on 1 June 1919. The Act prohibited the production, transportation, sale and storage of alcohol. A government-owned company, Valtion Alkoholiliike - Statens Alkoholrörelse, was established to manage the sale of alcohol for medicinal, technical and scientific purposes.
A consultative referendum on prohibition was held in 1931, in which more than 70 percent voted for the repeal of the Act.
From the founding of Alko to the present
The Parliament repealed the Prohibition Act by 120 votes to 45, and the Alcohol Act was ratified on 9 February 1932. Government-owned Oy Alkoholiliike Ab was granted an exclusive right to import, export, produce and sell alcoholic beverages.
Alko started operations on 5 April 1932 at 10:00 – hence the familiar sequence of numbers: 5-4-3-2-1-0. The opening of the alcohol company was preceded by a consultative referendum.
The first 48 shops were opened on 5 April 1932 at 10:00, 47 of which in towns and one in the rural municipality of Rovaniemi.
The first price list contained 164 products.
When the Winter War broke out, various measures were taken to restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages. For example, governors could prohibit the sale and serving of alcoholic beverages temporarily or completely.
The number of alcoholic beverages that could be bought was restricted.
As a result of the shortage of raw materials, illicit trade and unrest, a ‘shop certificate’ was introduced in Helsinki in September 1943 that entitled the holder to buy alcohol from a specific shop. The system, which was given the name ‘buyer control’, spread gradually across Finland. This is how ‘viinakortti’ (liquor card) – which is possibly the most famous means of control of the Finnish alcohol system – came into existence.
At the Parliament’s request, the ‘liquor card’ was developed into a means of social control. All purchases were recorded. A buyer control organisation was set up within the alcohol company.
Mild wines were exempted from buyer control.
Two major changes occurred in the 1950s: a cash register system was introduced and a shift to the consumption of milder beverages was encouraged.
After the arrival of Sweda cash registers, the salesperson was responsible for the entire sales transaction, including the handling of payments. The look of the shops changed, and bottles were placed upright on the shelves.
Strong beverages were exempted from buyer control in 1952. Long drinks were introduced in 1952 – the year in which the Olympics were held in Helsinki.
Alko had 92 shops and 974 sales staff, of whom 215 performed buyer control duties. Alcohol consumption, measured in pure alcohol, was 1.41 litres per capita.
In the Olympic year, Alko’s product range grew substantially. Most of the wines came from European countries. The spring price list contained 515 products.
The company’s 100th shop was opened on 1 April 1957 in Eerikinkatu, Turku.
The buyer control organisation established in the 1940s was dismantled, but the ‘liquor card’ remained in use.
A wine campaign was launched, with the aim of shifting consumption towards milder beverages and reducing the ‘drunk-oriented’ style of drinking. The prices of mild wines were lowered significantly, and those of fortified wines by a few percent. The prices of spirits were increased by a few percent. A well-known slogan encouraged people to favour mild beverages. Wine departments were introduced in shops, and brochures about wines and how to use them were made available. The publication of Alko’s customer magazine Viiniposti, currently Etiketti, began in 1965.
The first self-service shop was opened in Pohjoisesplanadi, Helsinki. The selection consisted of wines.
There were 130 shops and 965 sales staff. Alcohol consumption, measured in pure alcohol, was 2.88 litres per capita.